“Urban areas have become death traps for thousands of civilians,” says a new report issued by the United Nations Secretary-General ahead of the first World Humanitarian Summit, which opens May 23, 2016, in Istanbul. The report describes the widespread use of explosive weapons in towns and cities as “the largest killer of civilians in conflict.” It follows an unprecedented plea by Ban Ki-moon and the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross for countries to “stop the use of heavy explosive weapons in populated areas.”
Over the past year, Human Rights Watch has documented the unacceptably high civilian toll from the use of these weapons in countries such as Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan, and Yemen.
Explosive weapons with wide-area effects are especially problematic. These include heavy weapons such as large aircraft bombs and ground-launched artillery shells and mortar projectiles that cause death and damage over a wide area. They also include weapons that deliver multiple munitions or explosive warheads over a large area, such as Grads and other rockets from multiple launch rocket systems, and inherently inaccurate weapons such as “barrel bombs.”