Home Thematic Reports Cluster Bombs Kill and Injure Civilians in Daraa Province

Cluster Bombs Kill and Injure Civilians in Daraa Province


Reporting Several Attacks on Using Cluster Munitions in the Last Months

by wael.m
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Preface: Since early March 2017, many towns and cities in Daraa province were subjected to the most violent military attacks by the Syrian regular army, as the Syrian/Russian warplanes bombed the majority of the cities and towns in Daraa, as well as launching hundreds of rocket-propelled grenades and barrel bombs causing hundreds of civilian casualties being killed or injured. Syrians for Truth and Justice-STJ reported that the Syrian regular army used cluster bombs to shell few cities and towns in Daraa that are under the Syrian armed opposition control such as Daraa al-Balad, Om al-Mayathen, Nasib, Dael, Kharaz village located in al-Lujat area in the eastern countryside of Daraa, and caused civilian casualties and injuries, especially children.

On the other hand, new towns and cities engaged in the front line after experiencing a relatively calm period, such as al-Ajami that was shelled with barrel bombs on June 27, 2017, as well as al-Hara city, causing civilian casualties.

On July 9, 2017, the United States, Russia and Jordan announced, by their officials, a truce involving “de-escalation” zones in the south-west of Syria, including Daraa, Quneitra and Sweida. The truce aimed to fulfil a cease-fire and cessation of hostilities between Syrian government and the Syrian armed opposition. However, according to STJ reporter, there were several violations followed the declaration of the truce.

Cluster Munitions and the Syrian Conflict

Cluster munitions are weapons that contain a container; it can be dropped from aircraft, artillery or missiles, opening in mid-air to release tens or hundreds of small bombs or explosive submunitions on a vast area. According to the model, the number of submunitions can range from several dozens to over 600. The bulk of them are activated as they fell, and the most are characterized by free “randomly” fall, in the sense that they are not individually directed towards any goal. The cluster munitions were used for the first time in World War II, and a large proportion of the currently stored cluster munitions were designed to be used in the Cold War. Therefore, its main purpose is to destroy the multiple military objectives scattered over a wide area, such as tanks or infantry configuration, and to kill or injure combatants[1].

 “The majority of cluster munitions fail to explode as expected but pose a threat until they are moved. This risk increase on civilians given the vast area (Hazardous Area) that a single munition from cluster bombs can cover[2].”

118 states prohibit the use of cluster munitions because of the damage that cause during the attack, but neither the Syrian nor the Russian governments acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which comprehensively bans the use, production, Stockpiling or transferring cluster munitions. It also prohibits States parties from assisting, encouraging or urging any person to engage in any prohibited activity under the Convention.

“Cluster munitions are inherently indiscriminate weapons; therefore they should be prohibited in any circumstances. Each cluster bomb spreads dozens of small grenades over a larger area than a soccer field. Given the high rates of failing to explode, they pose a threat to the lives of civilians for next years. The repeated use of unguided bombs near the densely populated civilian areas would constitute violating the rule of prohibition of indiscriminate attacks[3].”

STJ documented using cluster bombs, in several Syrian provinces. On October 12, 2016, a whole family was killed as result of explosion an unexploded cluster bomb in Ibtaa town, Daraa countryside. Moreover, on November 12, 2016, cluster munitions were used against the  Atarib eastern neighborhoods in Aleppo western countryside.

First: Attacking Dael with Airstrikes and Indiscriminate Artillery Containing Cluster Bombs

 Dael, in the middle of Daraa countryside, witnessed intense raids and falling of dozens barrel bombs on civilian houses indiscriminately, causing scores of civilians bring wounded or killed. Since the beginning of June 2017, many artillery shells were recorded falling on the surrounding plains of the city, causing burning of hundreds of donums (every donum equivalents to a thousand square meters) of agricultural crops. In addition to that, on June 19, 2017, the Syrian regular army attempted to advance towards Dael to control some Syrian armed opposition positions in the eastern side of the city resulting in violent clashes between them. Moreover, on June 21, 2017, the Syrian/Russian warplanes conducted air raids and killed two civilians identified as Yazan Khalifa Shahadat and Hamada Jamil al-Asmi, as well as injured more than 10 civilians in the field hospital of the city.

On June 26, 2017, the Syrian regular army escalated its crackdown on Dael when the warplanes dropped 20 barrels on the city, along with ten air raids containing cluster bombs that fell among civilian houses, in addition to dozens of artillery shells that seriously injured more than 20 civilians.

Khaled al-Nasser, a nurse at Horan Pulse hospital in Dael, told STJ about the civilians’ serious injuries as a result of shelling the city by cluster bombs. He said:

“On June 26, 2017, we received about 20 injured civilians because of cluster bombs explosions. One of the bombs exploded when a civilian hardly touched it and caused him serious injuries, whereas injuries among the inhabitants ranged between critical and medium. The fragments exploded as soon as they hit the ground, or just because civilians touched them. Within half an hour, most of the wounded were moved to the hospital, while others were transferred to nearby hospitals aiming to speed up their treatment and prevent pharmacologic interventions.”

In turn, the nurse Khaled indicated that Mohammad al-Shahadat was among the civilians who died in shelling barrel bombs in Dael on June 28, 2017, and Amina Tayif al-Shahadat was killed in shelling the city with rocket launchers on July 1, 2017.

Image shows unexploded cluster bombs among civilian houses in Dael. Taken by the press photographer: Alaa al-Faqeer on June 26, 2017.
Photo credit: STJ

Image shows unexploded cluster bombs among civilian houses in Dael located in  the middle of Daraa countryside. Taken by the press photographer: Alaa al-Faqeer on June 26, 2017.
Photo credit: STJ

Image shows the aftermath of a cluster bomb explosion in the courtyard of a house in Dael. Taken by the press photographer: Alaa al-Faqeer on June 26, 2017.
Photo credit: STJ

A video tape posted by the Civil Defense members in Dael on July 3, 2017, showed the process of disposal of unexploded cluster bombs scattered among residential houses in the city.
 

Second: Escalation in Al-Lujat Area in the Eastern Countryside of Daraa and Targeting One of the Villages with Cluster Munitions

Since the beginning of June 2017, the Syrian regular army has increased its military escalation on several villages in al-Lujat area in the eastern countryside of Daraa by indiscriminate shelling and launching airstrikes and barrel bombs. STJ’s reporter said that on July 2, 2017, Om Kharaz was shelled by a cluster munitions that scattered into several small grenades among civilian houses.

In this regard, Akram al-Melihan, a Civil Defense member in al-Lujat area, asserted that the cluster raid on Om Kharaz village slightly injured a civilian. Concerning the recent military escalation of the Syrian regular army on villages of al-Lujat area, he said:

"The villages of Eyeb, Sha’ara, El Sharaya’, Jamrah, al-Sayegh , Om Kharaz ,al-Jisri and Jenin) are exposed to heavy shelling with barrel bombs, let alone dozens of air raids by the Syrian warplanes. On July 8, 2017, dropping barrel bombs on Eyeb killed a woman identified as Dalal Hussein Saiyah Hussein, and seriously injured three civilians. I can say that the humanitarian situation in these villages is very bad, especially after most of the villagers left their houses, which were destroyed by shelling, and tended to live in tents in the open air."

Third: Airstrikes with Cluster Munitions on Nasib Border  Crossing

Hassan al-Sharif, an activist, documented shelling Nasib Border Crossing with cluster missiles by the Syrian warplanes on June 24, 2017.  Al-Sharif confirmed that the town had been exposed to the heaviest bombardment by the Syrian regular army since the beginning of March 2017, which left many civilians dead and wounded. He added:

"Syrian warplanes launched three airstrikes on the outskirts of the town loaded with cluster bombs, consisted of small-scale unexploded missiles, which dispersed near the targeted area, but no civilian casualties were recorded until this moment."

Fourth: Using Cluster Bombs by the Syrian Regular Army in the Previous Months of 2017

Basil al-Mofa’alani, a media activist from Om almayathen town, confirmed that on April 24, 2017, the Russian warplanes launched two airstrikes on the plains surrounding Om almayathen, as many cluster bombs were scattered near some of the Bedouin tents who inhabit the area. He told STJ:

"The plains surrounding the town were targeted by two night raids, we did not know then that they were carrying cluster bombs, but the next day one of the Bedouin resident told us that he felt a strange body falling on his tent, and the next morning he was surprised by fire on top of the tent and the hearing of an explosion, one of his children was slightly injured, and as a result, some of the town's inhabitants observed the area on the western side of the town, and found that cluster missiles had spread around, most of which had been tightened with parachutes.”

Al Mofa’alani added that the Civil Defense teams in Daraa worked to remove the unexploded ordnance deployed on the outskirts of Om almayathen on July 8, 2017.

Image shows one of the unexploded cluster missiles found by the Civil Defense teams on the outskirts of Om almayathen on July 8, 2017.
Photo credit: the Civil Defense Facebook account in Daraa

Image shows one of the unexploded cluster missiles found by Civil Defense teams on the outskirts of Om almayathen on 8 July 2017.
Photo credit: the Civil Defense Facebook account in Daraa

The Civil Defense in Daraa published on its Facebook account a video footage on July 10, 2017, that showed Unexploded Ordnance Team (UXO TEAM) while neutralizing the ordnance scattered on the outskirts of Om almayathen in the eastern countryside of Daraa.

On the other hand, STJ reporter documented several airstrikes loaded with cluster bombs on Daraa al-Balad neighborhoods during March and April 2017, as confirmed by the media activist Ahmed Mousa who referred to the intensity of cluster bombs raids on Daraa al-Balad neighborhoods given it is close to the Syrian armed opposition- controlled al-Manshiya neighborhood. He said:

“Under violent attack by the Syrian regular army on Daraa neighborhoods controlled by the Syrian armed opposition, we saw the Russian warplanes launching approximately seven airstrikes loaded with cluster bombs on Daraa al-Balad neighborhoods on April 6, 9 and 22, 2017. The warplanes reiterated the bombardment on March 13, 2017, and launched three airstrikes with cluster bombs; and there was a significant spread of several small-scale missiles among civilian houses, but no injuries were recorded because of the absence of the residents from the targeted areas. However, the greatest fear is on the lives of civilians in case they return to their houses after the lull in shelling.”

In another incident, STJ reporter documented killing of a child identified as Hamza Jouma’a al-Mereished, and a serious injury that affected his  brother on March 7, 2017, as a cluster bomb exploded close to their       house in al-Sahwah town in the eastern countryside of Daraa. It is worth mentioning that the town was under artillery bombardment by the Syrian regular army stationed in the western countryside of Sweida.

On February 18, 2017, a child identified as Mohammad Ahmad as-Swedani from Nemr in the western countryside of Daraa was killed, while two others were seriously injured in explosion of a cluster bomb   from the remnants of indiscriminate shelling on outskirts of the town by the Syrian regular army stationed in al-Sanamayn in Daraa.
 

Fifth: Shelling Cities that were in a State of Relative Calm Resulting in Civilian Casualties

On June 27, 2017, the Syrian regular army indiscriminately shelled residential neighborhoods in al-Hara, killed three people of the same family identified as the father Khaled Terki al-Jarad, and his two daughters Nidaa and Baraa, as well as the child Sara Khaldoon al-Jarad and her mother Rana Rans al-Jarad, in addition to seriously injuring more than seven civilians. It is worth mentioning that during the previous months of the current year al-Hara was exposed to intermittent artillery shelling that targeted indiscriminately the plains surrounding the city and injured some civilian.

In a related context, shelling al-Hara coincided with bombarding of al-Ajami town in the western countryside of Daraa by the Syrian warplanes with four barrel bombs, which claimed the lives of two civilians according to the testimony of Moutaz Abu-Aws, an activist from the town. He said:
“It was the last time the Syrian regular army shelled the town about two years ago. However, on June 27, 2017, we were surprised by the Syrian warplanes dropping four barrel bombs on the eastern and western outskirts of the town, killing a woman identified as Hind Abu Nabout and her child Moradi Fayez Ibrahim al-Massalmeh, as well as injuring seriously more than five civilians.”

Image shows cluster munitions in Dael on June 26, 2017.
Photo credit: Nabaa Media Foundation

 


[1] Cluster munitions: What are they? What is the problem? International Committee of the Red Cross ICRC, August 2013, for more information, please visit the following link:

https://www.icrc.org/ara/resources/documents/legal-fact-sheet/cluster-munitions-factsheet-230710.htm

[2] International Committee of the Red Cross ICRC, December 15,2016, for more information, please visit the following link: https://www.icrc.org/ara/resources/documents/feature/liban-stories-151206.htm

[3] Amnesty International, Syria: The failure of Russia to recognize the death of civilians is shameful: https://www.amnesty.org/ar/press-releases/2015/12/syria-russias-shameful-failure-to-acknowledge-civilian-killings-1/

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