Barrel Bombs in the Syrian Civil War: A Game Changer?

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EDAM’s sixth Discussion Paper published under the “Syrian War Series” focuses on the expanding usage of barrel bombs in the Syrian civil war. A barrel bomb is an improvised explosive device (IED) employed in air-ground missions, mainly by rotary-winged assets. These weapons are cheaper and easy to produce, even “home-made”, and pose an important threat to civilians because of their indiscriminate character. Barrel bombs are filled with explosives, shrapnel, or incendiary material, and dropped by personnel from a helicopter flying at lower altitudes depending on air defense threats. Thus, employment over urban and sub-urban areas are dangerous due to the “dumb” character of this totally unguided weapon, possible errors by flying pilots and dropping personnel in the bombardment missions, as well as the contents of the bomb. Moreover for the regime, an increase in civilian casualties may possibly be an intended objective.

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