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Syria and Russia breaking law with firebomb attacks: Watchdog

Human Rights Watch calls for global ban on weapons used by Syrian and Russian forces that cause fires and burn their victims
Rebel forces have effectively broken the siege of Aleppo by government loyalists and allies (AFP)

Syrian and Russian jets have violated international law by using bombs that burn their victims and start fires in the rebel-held cities of Aleppo and Idlib, Human Rights Watch reported on Tuesday.

The watchdog said a review of photographs and videos showed incendiary weapons have been used at least 18 times between 5 June and 10 August.

Human Rights Watch said at least 12 civilians had been wounded in the bombings and the group’s arms director called for the weapons to no longer be used in the war.

“The Syrian government and Russia should immediately stop attacking civilian areas with incendiary weapons,” said Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch.

“These weapons inflict horrible injuries and excruciating pain, so all countries should condemn their use in civilian areas.”

In its report Human Rights Watch referred to an attack on 7 August in the rebel held Mashhad area in east Aleppo, in which activists reported incendiary weapons were used in air strikes carried out by the joint Syrian-Russian military operation.

Middle East Eye visited the site of the attack shortly after it took place, with our correspondent Zouhir al-Shimale reporting that a “foul smell” was present amid the debris of the attack’s aftermath.

The conditions witnessed by MEE – difficult to extinguish fires and large clouds of thick white smoke – match exactly with the impact of white phosphorus, as used in the incendiary weapons.

The battle for Aleppo has raged as Syrian-Russian jets seek to reclaim territory from rebel groups who are desperately trying to hold onto ground amid sustained aerial bombardments.

Human Rights Watch called for countries attending a meeting of the Convention on Conventional Weapons in Geneva on 29 August to condemn the weapons’ use, and to strengthen protocol around their use in war.

“The disgraceful incendiary weapon attacks in Syria show an abject failure to adhere to international law restricting incendiary weapons,” Goose said.

“The resulting civilian harm demonstrates the inadequacy of existing law on incendiary weapons, which should be strengthened urgently. From a humanitarian standpoint, a global ban on incendiary weapons would provide the best solution.”

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