Rights group: Syria using barrel bombs, defying UN
BEIRUT (AP) — The Syrian government is still indiscriminately bombing civilians with explosives-filled barrels in defiance of a U.N. Security Council resolution, an international human rights group said Wednesday.
The Human Rights Watch statement came as the Security Council was expected to meet for a fifth round of reporting on the resolution — and at least 11 people were killed by the bombs overnight.
February's resolution demanded a halt to all attacks against civilians as well as indiscriminate shelling and aerial bombardment — including the use of so-called barrel bombs — in populated areas. The crude weapons — barrels packed with explosives and scraps of metal that are pushed out of helicopters — cannot be precisely targeted. They have caused widespread civilian casualties as they hit homes, schools and open markets.
The New York-based group says it has documented over 650 strikes on rebel-held neighborhoods in the northern city of Aleppo since the resolution's adoption. It noted in the report that opposition fighters also carry out indiscriminate attacks, including mortar strikes and car bombings.
Barrel bombs on Aleppo have killed more than 2,000 people this year, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of activists inside the war-torn country.
Six people were killed by barrel bombs in the Aleppo neighborhood of Bab Neirab overnight, including an elderly man, three women and a child, the Observatory reported. Another barrel bomb hit the Aleppo neighborhood of Saliheen, killing five people and burying another eight under rubble, the Observatory said. A Syrian activist who uses the name Saleh confirmed the strikes, but not the death tolls. Conflicting death tolls are common in the chaotic aftermath of such events.
Tens of thousands of Syrians have fled Aleppo since the pace of the barrel bombings accelerated in December.
"Month after month, the Security Council has sat idly by as the government defied its demands with new barrel bomb attacks on Syrian civilians," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Russia and China need to allow the Security Council to show the same resolve and unanimity it brought to the issue of humanitarian aid to call a halt to these deadly attacks on civilians."
Also Wednesday, an explosives-rigged vehicle exploded in a neighborhood of the central city of Homs, killing two people, state-run news reported. The Observatory said the neighborhood's population is mainly Alawite. President Bashar Assad hails from the country's Alawite minority, whose faith is an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
Over 170,000 people have been killed in Syria in more than three years of fighting, activists say.
Associated Press writer Diaa Hadid contributed to this report.