With global attention focused on the fight against jihadists, Syria’s regime has in recent weeks stepped up its use of deadly barrel bomb strikes, killing civilians and wreaking devastation. In less than a fortnight, warplanes have dropped at least 401 barrel bombs on rebel areas in eight provinces, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group.
Activist Yassin Abu Raed, from the town of Anadan in northern Aleppo province, has seen his house hit three times in barrel bomb attacks. The latest strike destroyed it completely. “Death is all around us, and nobody cares,” he told AFP via the Internet. “Barrel bombs kill those we love most, they destroy houses, dreams and memories, and leave us without any hope that the killing will ever stop.”
“All this, and no one has even heard of us, no one feels for us.” The Observatory, which documents casualties and strikes, relying on a broad network of activists and doctors across the war-torn country, said at least 232 civilians have been killed in regime air strikes, including barrel bomb attacks, since October 20.
Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said the number of barrel bomb attacks is now “much higher” than a fortnight ago. The regime began using barrel bombs in late 2012, but stepped up its attacks this year, with a wave of raids in February alone killing hundreds of people.
Barrel bombs are typically constructed from large oil drums, gas cylinders or water tanks filled with high explosives and scrap metal. On Wednesday, helicopters dropped four barrel bombs on a camp for displaced people in the northwestern province of Idlib, killing at least 10 people and wounding dozens, according to the Observatory.
Activists posted horrific video footage on YouTube, showing bodies torn apart and people wailing as they tried to rescue survivors. The United States denounced the attack as “barbaric”. Ismail al-Hassan, a volunteer nurse at a field hospital in Idlib province, told AFP via the Internet that health workers face immense difficulties treating the wounded after a barrel bomb blast.
“Most of the casualties from barrel bomb strikes are women and children,” said Hassan, adding that medical staff suffer from severe equipment shortages, making it hard to treat casualties properly. Hassan also said he and his colleagues suffer deep psychological scars from treating victims.