Syria using powerful new cluster munitions: HRWAgence France-Presse . Beirut
Syria’s government forces have begun using a powerful type of cluster munition rocket not previously seen in the country’s conflict, Human Rights Watch said in a statement on Wednesday.
The group said photos taken after a recent attack in the central city of Hama suggested the government had deployed 300 mm 9M55K surface-to-surface rockets, a Russian weapon that carries dozens of submunitions.
It identified the rockets as having being used on February 12 and 13 in attacks that killed at least two civilians and wounded at least 10 others.
The group warned that the rocket is three times as large as other cluster munitions currently in use by Syrian government forces, and said the weapon would add to the country’s civilian death toll.
‘It is appalling that Syrian government forces are still using banned cluster munitions on their people,’ said Steve Goose, arms division director at Human Rights Watch.
‘Cluster bombs are killing Syrian civilians now and threatening Syrians for generations to come.’
Cluster bombs have been banned by 113 countries around the world.
They are particularly controversial because they are indiscriminate and the bomblets they carry are often widely dispersed and continue to maim and kill civilians long after the initial attack.
More than 140,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict in the country began in March 2011.
Meanwhile, nearly a dozen civilians were evacuated from besieged parts of the Syrian city of Homs Wednesday before the operation was halted because of shots fired by ‘armed men’, the governor said.
‘The operation allowed the evacuation of 11 civilians from Bustan al-Diwan and Al-Hameidiya,’ Governor Talal Barazi said, but it was halted because of ‘obstruction by armed men who opened fire at the crossing’.
He added that the evacuation had not been coordinated with the United Nations but with ‘elders and clerics’.
Barazi had earlier told state TV that most of those evacuated were women, children and the elderly.
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