At least 18 children, two of their teachers and over 100 civilians are dead
after Syrian Air Force helicopters peppered Aleppo with barrel bombs over the
last three days.
The assault and the death toll, claimed by the Syrian
National Coalition of opposition forces, have been supported by visual evidence
that spread through social media outlets after the dust settled from the series
Children were rushed from the Tayba primary school in the
Al-Inzarat suburb of Aleppo to the over-packed, under-sourced, badly damaged
local hospital, as residents of nearby As-Sakhour pried their neighbors from a
collapsed residential building. The main square of Al-Marjeh has reportedly been
destroyed. A vegetables market on Al-Villat Street in As-Sakhour was
The barrel bomb is a commonly used weapon in the arsenal of
Syrian president Bashar Assad.
The aptly named devices are crudely made,
with trinitrotoluene (TNT) or other explosives stuffed into cylinders or oil
barrels and dropped out of the back of helicopters.
The US Department of
State could not confirm the bombing of the school, but has strongly condemned
the use of barrel bombs in recent days and was able to confirm the killing of
“dozens, including women and children.”
“Unfortunately this is not the
first time these barrel bombs have been used against innocent civilians,” Dina
Badawy, a State Department spokeswoman, told The Jerusalem Post on
“And regime air raids in and around Aleppo have continued
“These bombs – and the explosive materials contained within
them – further underscore the brutality of the Assad regime and the lengths they
will go to attack and kill their own people,” Badawy added.
“This is yet another
deadly weapon [Syrian President Bashar] Assad is using against his own
While barrel bombs can be equipped with inflammatory, napalm-like
substances, those used this week in Aleppo only utilized conventional
explosives and sharp nails to maximize casualties, according to reports.
“It’s a routine weapon, and perhaps the second most common
weapon used in the war,” said Jeffrey White, a defense fellow at the Washington
Institute for Near East Policy, who characterized the weapon’s precision as
White recalls a video he was shown, taken by an
Assad regime airman, lighting a barrel bomb fuse with a cigarette and casually
pushing the explosives out of a helicopter door.
“Much of the fighting is
in built up areas of civilian population, so civilians are going to be hit,
either intentionally or by accident,” White added.
The onslaught against
Aleppo occurred just as Western nations indicated to Syrian opposition
leadership that peace talks next month may not lead to the removal of Assad,
Reuters reported on Tuesday.
The Alawite minority, from which Assad is a
part, will remain key in any transitional administration, opposition sources
were allegedly told.
The message, delivered to senior members of the
Syrian National Coalition at a meeting of the anti-Assad Friends of Syria
alliance in London last week, was prompted by the rise of al-Qaida and other
armed groups, and their takeover of a border crossing and arms depots near
Turkey belonging to the moderate Free Syrian Army, the sources told
If confirmed, those terms mark a drastic geopolitical shift in
the conflict since the end of the summer, when the deaths of dozens of children
by gas, executed by the Assad regime, infuriated US President Barack Obama last
August. Citing the violation of an international norm against the use of
chemical weapons, and the heinous practice of their use against innocent
children, Obama threatened to strike the infrastructure of Assad’s military with
force that would debilitate his chemical weapons arsenal.
That arsenal is
being dismantled after an international accord, brokered by Russia, led Assad to
sign the United Nations Chemical Weapons Convention in September and American
forces to stand down.
On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
said his government was ready to aide in the destruction of Syria’s chemical
arms at sea with its navy. US officials have made a similar offer and have
prepared a state-of-the-art ship to help in the process.
In New York,
Lavrov’s colleague at the UN said that the US had withheld information on Syrian
chemical weapons use for months.
“Our requests for additional information
which could prove the Syrian government involvement in the use of chemical
weapons were ignored by Washington,” Russian UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin told
reporters after a closed-door meeting on chief UN chemical arms investigator Åke
Sellström’s final report on the August crisis.
“The lack of any proof
[about Assad’s use of chemical arms] was particularly strange, because, as the
public learned from the media reports based on Edward Snowden’s materials, the
United States had powerful intelligence assets in Syria,” Churkin
The onslaught against Aleppo may
suggest a regime offensive against the rebel stronghold is
Increased violence in the nation’s largest city has compounded
pressures on a summit scheduled for January in Geneva, during which the
international community hopes to get both sides of the conflict to the table to
discuss a diplomatic end to the bitter civil war.
Last week, the US
suspended all non-lethal assistance to the Supreme Military Council in the
country’s north after they failed to secure a warehouse, stocked with supplies
delivered by the West, from a raid by the Islamic Front.
Department had previously provided $260 million in non-lethal assistance to the
SMC. Officials said that humanitarian aid will continue despite the
While not formally listed as a terrorist organization by
Western powers, the Islamic Front is a fundamentalist opposition group in Syria
without any public relationship with the US government.
On Tuesday, US
Secretary of State John Kerry said that, after last week’s raid, the US might be
willing to talk with the group.
“The United States has not met to date
with the Islamic Front, but it’s possible it could take place,” Kerry told a
news conference in Manila where he is visiting. • Reuters contributed to this