The Syrian government has been bombarding Aleppo with barrel bombs for months. It claims that it is targeting terrorist groups, but it is impossible to control where an irregularly weighted object dropped high above ground will land. Citizens listen day and night for the whirr of helicopters and watch the sky to guess where the barrels spinning through the air will explode.
“If these indiscriminate, dumb weapons managed to hit a military target, it would be sheer luck,” Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said in a BBC.com post, Aleppo gripped by barrel bomb fears.
Precision and discrimination hardly seem the point of these weapons. The point is fear. The Syrian government’s use of barrel bombs — one component in a conflict that Human Rights Watch refers to as “an indiscriminate and unlawful air war against civilians by the Syrian government” — is not to hit terrorist leaders or rebel targets but to terrorize citizens in the ongoing battle for control. With diminishing hope for a rebel military victory or significant outside intervention, the battle for Syria will be determined by suppression of a citizenry until it loses the strength and will to resist.
In February the UN Security Council adopted a resolution calling for an immediate end to “all attacks against civilians, as well as the indiscriminate employment of weapons in populated areas, including shelling and aerial bombardment, such as the use of barrel bombs." The use of the bombs hasn't ebbed, and Aleppo's civilian areas continue to be the main target.