08 February 2016

"The injured were mostly women and children"

Cluster bomb attacks increase in January-February 2016 during Syrian-Russian military operation in Syria

Syria 2016 Copyright Firas Abdallah

Fragment pattern typical of the detonation of a submunition seen in the asphalt in Douma, Damascus, after a cluster munition attack on 3 February 2016. © 2016 Firas Abdallah

Cluster bombs have been used almost daily in Syria by the Syrian-Russian joint military operation since 26 January 2016, said Cluster Munition Coalition member Human Rights Watch on 8 February.

The Cluster Munition Coalition condemns these attacks and calls on both Russia and Syria to stop using cluster bombs. These weapons have been banned internationally due to the harm posed to civilians at the time of use and from their remnants, particularly unexploded submunitions.

Both states should also join the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Between 26 January and 5 February 2016, 14 cluster bomb attacks were documented, killing at least 37 civilians and injuring dozens. The real number of attacks is probably much higher.

"The injured were mostly women and children," said a journalist with an opposition-affiliated media center, about an attack in Kafr Laha on 27 January. "It was very hard to see."

In addition to the casualties at the time of the attack, cluster bombs typically leave behind large amounts of unexploded bomblets that threaten civilians long afterwards.

In early October 2015, the Cluster Munition Coalition called on Russia not to use cluster bombs in Syria. Later that month, we expressed concern with the new use of an advanced type of Russian cluster munition in Syria.

Syria 2016 Copyright Ahmad al Farouq
Unexploded O-10 submunition from a 3-O-8 cluster munition mortar projectile found in Douma, Damascus, after a cluster munition attack on 27 January 2016. © 2016 Ahmad al-Farouq

States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions Must React

All States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions have a special responsibility to promote the norm established by the Convention and to "discourage States not party… from using cluster munitions" (Article 21).

States Parties to the Convention that are also members of the International Syria Support Group should play an active role to this end. This includes France, Germany, Iraq, Italy, Lebanon and the United Kingdom.

The Co-Hosts' declaration of the "Supporting Syria & the Region 2016" Conference of 4 February 2016, called for an end to ongoing violations of International Humanitarian Law in Syria. Co-Hosts that are also States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions include Germany, Norway and the United Kingdom.

More than 150 states have condemned or expressed grave concern with the use of cluster munitions in Syria in recent years.