UK & World News
Syrian Regime 'Using Banned Cluster Bombs'
The Syrian regime has used rocket launchers to fire banned cluster bombs on least two occasions in the last two months, according to a new report.
An investigation published by Human Rights Watch (HRW) claims to have evidence of Syrian forces using BM-21 Grad multi-barrel rocket launchers to fire the Egyptian-made munitions near the city of Idlib in December and at Latamneh, a town just northwest of Hama, earlier this month.
The report claims the 122mm rockets filled with cluster sub-munitions were made by the Egyptian state-owned Arab Organisation for Industrialisation and are designed as both anti-personnel and anti-vehicle devices.
Human Rights Watch investigators believe this is first recorded use of such weapons in the Syrian conflict.
Steve Goose, director of the arms division at HRW, said: "Syria is escalating and expanding its use of cluster munitions, despite international condemnation of its embrace of this banned weapon.
"It is now resorting to a notoriously indiscriminate type of cluster munition that gravely threatens civilian populations."
Last November, a Sky News team led by Special Correspondent Alex Crawford also discovered scores of unexploded Russian-made cluster bombs in the town of Tal Rafaat, near the Turkish border.
A total of 111 countries have signed the international treaty banning the use of cluster munitions.
It comes as rebel coordination committees have reported barrels loaded with explosives being dropped from warplanes above Dar'aa - the city where the uprisings against President Bashar al Assad began in March 2011.
The so-called 'barrel bombs' are effectively home-made devices packed with shrapnel, leading some munitions experts to speculate that regime stocks may be running low.
The use of such indiscriminate weapons will only contribute to the ongoing problem of civilians being forced to flee their homes in Syria.
Another report published on Monday by the International Rescue Committee claims the situation in the country is "steadily worsening" and says international aid is currently "drastically insufficient" to deal with the crisis.
In its recommendations, the IRC says the international community must prepare for the major issues connected to the displacement of civilians to "last well beyond the end of the Assad government and persist regardless of the political outcome".
Recent winter storms that have brought snow, high winds and freezing conditions have led to deteriorating conditions in refugee camps in Turkey and Jordan.
Latest figures from the UN Refugee Agency show 597,240 people have registered or are awaiting registration with the agency.
Some countries have higher estimates, noting many have found accommodation without registering.
Around 60,000 have people are believed to have been killed since the uprising began.