Activists in Aleppo said that 12 civilians were killed and dozens more injured in airstrikes by Russian jets on Thursday. A number of videos have lately surfaced showing airstrikes on populated areas in Aleppo and its countryside using internationally banned weapons, most notably incendiary and cluster munitions.
Dozens of airstrikes on Thursday hit the towns Maaret Alartiq, Anadan, Huraytan, Hayan and Kafar Hamra, Tal Masibin, Kafar Biseen, Almallah and Hndarat camp near Aleppo. More airstrikes also targeted western rural Aleppo, causing civilian casualties and massive material damage.
Nine months into its direct intervention in Syria, Russia is deploying more deadly weapons against liberated areas across Syria. Hundreds of photos and videos provide compelling evidence that Russia is using internationally banned weapons in Syria, most notably cluster munitions and incendiary bombs. Experts and monitoring groups have recently documented Russia’s use of RBK 500 cluster bombs and incendiary bombs in its ongoing airstrikes in Syria.
Russia has also used thermobaric and vacuum bombs as well as cruise and ballistic missiles. Russia’s use of incendiary weapons in Syria was accidently captured on camera by Russia’s mouthpiece channel Russia Today, which later edited the footage out of its news package.
The footage showed a Russian plane loaded with munitions marked with identifying numbers in Hmeymim airbase in Latakia province last Saturday. Experts from Human Rights Watch (HRW) and open-source intelligence groups concluded that those munitions were incendiary weapons mounted on a Su-34 ground attack aircraft – specifically RBK-500 ZAB-2.5SM bombs.
The experts said they believed the weapons contained a metal powder fuel known as thermite, the hottest burning man-made substance in the world. Thermite ignites in the air, which has led witnesses of the attacks to describe them as “fireballs.”
Because of the flammable content, incendiary weapons cause excruciatingly painful burns and start fires that are hard to extinguish. “It looked like a bright shower raining down,” an activist in Aleppo told the Telegraph newspaper, which was backed up by a video recording. “It happened at night and the whole sky lit up. The buildings were burning for many hours after.”
The use of air-dropped incendiary bombs on civilian populations constitutes a violation of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, HRW said.
In a recent letter to HRW, Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov acknowledged the “significant humanitarian damage” caused by incendiary weapons in Syria, which he blamed on their “improper use.”
As of June 23, at least 2,153 civilians, including nearly 460 children and 200 women, have been killed in Russian airstrikes in Syria since the start of the Russian aggression on Syria on September 30, 2015, according to figures compiled by the Syrian Coalition’s media office. (Source: Syrian Coalition + Agencies)