Cluster bombs, outlawed munitions that kill and maim indiscriminately, have caused more casualties in the Syrian civil war than in the 2006 Lebanon conflict, when Israel’s heavy use of the weapons hastened the treaty banning them two years later, a monitoring group said Wednesday.
The group, the Cluster Munition Coalition, said in an annual report, “Cluster Munition Monitor 2014,” that it had documented at least 264 deaths and 1,320 injuries in Syria from cluster bombs used in 2012 and 2013, and that “hundreds more were recorded in the first half of 2014.”
Ninety-seven percent of the dead in Syria were civilians, the report said, and the number of such injuries doubled in 2013 from the year before, suggesting that the weapons had been increasingly deployed in more heavily populated areas.
Although the report did not specify whether government forces or insurgents were using them, munitions experts have said that only the Syrian military has the technical capability.
“This year’s use of cluster munitions shows that while these weapons have been banned by most countries of the world, some actors still flout international opinion and standards,” Mary Wareham, the advocacy director of Human Rights Watch’s arms division and an editor of the report, said in a statement issued by the coalition in advance of the report’s release.
The group’s statement said, “Already, casualties in Syria are higher than those attributed to the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict that triggered global outrage and contributed to the establishment of the ban convention.”
Israel’s military was widely criticized at home and abroad for its heavy cluster-bomb use in Lebanon, dropping hundreds of thousands of them, particularly in the final days of the 34-day conflict with Hezbollah. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoted a commander of the Israel Defense Forces as saying, “What we did was insane and monstrous, we covered entire towns in cluster bombs.”