Barrel bombs, indiscriminate weapons responsible for the deaths of 11,000 civilians in the Syrian civil war, are the increasing weapons of choice of the Assad regime.
Above: amateur footage of recent barrel bomb attacks in Aleppo and Deraa.
The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights has said around 7,000 barrel bombs have been dropped by the Syrian regime in the first five months of 2015, killing around 3,000 people – mostly civilians – and these numbers continue to rise.
Among the dead were 452 children and 290 women.
Barrel bombs are oil barrels, fuel tanks and gas cylinders packed with explosive, fuel and metal fragments that are dropped from helicopters. They devastate the surrounding areas where they land, and those not killed in the blast are often maimed by flying shrapnel. Chemical weapons such as chlorine are also often deployed in the barrels.
Bashar al-Assad has denied the Syrian regime uses barrel bombs – despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
In a campaign described by Amnesty international as “vicious and unrelenting”, the Assad regime is accused of dropping the bombs on hospitals, schools, mosques and crowded markets.
Most recently they have been used around Aleppo, where the Assad regime is battling rebels for control. Amnesty International says barrel bombs killed more than 3,000 civilians in Aleppo governate alone last year.
But in a sign that the Assad regime is expanding their use, barrel bomb attacks have been reported in a host of other Syrian provinces such as Idlib – where the regime has been all but forced out – and in Deraa, where rebels have recently taken a key strategic base.
On Wednesday alone, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported barrel bomb attacks in the al-Ferdous neighbourhood of Aleppo, on two villages in the Idlib countryside, and on two villages and the town of al-Latamneh in Hama.
The rebels took Liwa 52, or the Syrian army’s 52 Brigade, on Tuesday – and in doing so took the last regime-held area in eastern Deraa. It follows other recent capitulations by the Syrian regime – including the loss of Palmyra to the Islamic State group and defeat in Idlib in March.