The last month has seen some of the worst violence of the entire Syrian civil war. Starting in mid-September with the breakdown of a poorly-implemented US/Russian-backed ceasefire, Russian Aerospace Force (RuAF) and Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF) aircraft continued and increased their bombing missions against opposition-held territory. In particular, the city of Aleppo has seen a drastic increase in violence, with hundreds being killed in the last 30 days alone. Many of those killed have been children, and on top of those killed there are many thousands more wounded and millions displaced, not to mention the psychological impact.

 

The SyAAF drops weapons known as barrel bombs, crude anti-personnel munitions consisting of a metal barrel of some kind filled with shrapnel and an explosive of some kind, then attached to a helicopter or simply rolled out of the cargo bay (or sometimes attached to attack aircraft) and left to find a target somewhere in opposition turf. The weapons are indiscriminate at best, and when they land they have the ability to level an entire city block. These weapons, despite their terror factor, cannot typically be aimed with any degree of accuracy. To hit precise targets, you need the RuAF’s arsenal. The Russians are employing, among other things, bunker buster munitions, cluster munitions, incendiary weapons, and thermobaric weapons. Each of these is horrifying for a different reason.
Bunker buster munitions are massive, designed to penetrate the thick concrete of aircraft hard-shelters or traditional bunkers, then exploding to destroy the substructure targeted. When used on a city building, the effect is the complete collapse and destruction of the target area, usually at least a city block, and the death of nearly everybody within. The video linked above shows a SyAAF jet making a bunker buster run.

 

Cluster munitions are, even at their best, an imperfect weapon simply due to their nature. A cluster weapon is a weapon that disperses a large number of smaller munitions over a certain area. Inevitably some of these smaller weapons will misfire and not detonate when they should, instead remaining on the battlefield until they are disposed of or discovered by somebody. Children are often the victims with cluster munitions, a lesson the US has been taught (and ignored) numerous times, from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The incendiary weapons in question are also known as white phosphorus weapons. White phosphorus (WP) burns at an extremely high temperature, making it nearly impossible to extinguish. When any amount of WP gets on the human body, it immediately burns through any clothing, then through the skin and the flesh until it hits the bone, where it will continue to burn until it exhausts its fuel. Victims are often brought to the hospital still on fire, smoke pouring from tiny holes all over their bodies.

Thermobaric weapons are a whole different level of horror; instead of killing via an explosion or a concussion, they typically kill via conflagration, or the non-explosive rapid spread of fire. The fires rapidly suck the air out of the room before igniting, often leading the weapons to be called “Vacuum bombs”. Human lungs are collapsed or popped, or according to some reports even sometimes pulled out through the mouth and made external. The weapons are, needless to say, inhumane at least.

All of these weapons are being used in and around civilian areas of Syria. In particular, Aleppo has seen a large share of these events. And the targets of these weapons? Along with “valid” targets such as opposition strongholds, many Russian air strikes in particular have been seen targeting hospitals, marketplaces, schools, and Syrian Civil Defense (White Helmets, henceforce SCD) facilities.

SCD facility destroyed by Russian airstrikes — Aleppo

The White Helmets (SCD) are a group of several thousand civilian volunteers across Syria who run toward the bombs and missiles to dig their friends and strangers alike out of the rubble. At least 146 have been killed since the organization began operating in 2013, yet they have saved over 60,000 lives. They are the shining spot of light in the darkness that is the Syrian civil war.

The situation is incredibly dire and requires immediate action. Please consider a donation (link at the bottom of this post) to the White Helmets, or if you can’t afford a donation, take the time to write/call your representatives and tell them to support H.R. 5732, also known as the Caesar Bill or the Caesar Resolution, that would call for harsher sanctions against the Syrian government and leadership, require the creation of a list of war criminals and persons who have violated international law, and create a body to investigate the feasibility of putting a no-fly zone in place over parts or all of Syria.
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