Syrian rescue expert urges U.N. to stop barrel bomb attacks

Western organizations have provided video footage of Syrian helicopters dropping the weapons

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The head of a Syrian rescue organization that searches for survivors and more often finds bodies in the rubble left by what he says are barrel bombs dropped from government helicopters appealed to the U.N. Security Council on Friday to stop indiscriminate attacks that have escalated dramatically and are mainly killing civilians.

The Security Council has been bitterly divided over Syria between Russia, a close ally of President Bashar Assad’s government, and Western nations who have campaigned for a transitional government leading to democratic elections.

Raed Saleh told the U.N.’s most powerful body that “the Security Council in the eyes of those suffering has become a non-Security Council” because it hasn’t implemented its February 2014 resolution demanding an end to indiscriminate use of weapons in populated areas, including barrel bombs.

“The Syrian people who are killed day after day hold you responsible and call on you to take the necessary measures to put an end to the killing in Syria, particularly the use of indiscriminate weapons,” he told an informal council meeting focusing on the increasing use of barrel bombs in the Syrian war, now well into its fifth year with well over 200,000 killed.

Assad has denied Syria uses barrel bombs but western organizations have provided video footage of Syrian helicopters dropping the weapons.

Saleh said he never would have thought about asking for foreign intervention in Syria and said council action should include a no-fly zone to stop the dropping of barrel bombs. He said he didn’t want to return to Syria without an answer from the council. But he didn’t get one.

Russian Counsellor Andrey Listov, who previously lived in Syria and said he loved the country, told the council that the responsibility for the current situation “falls on those who finance and arm terrorists.”

Russia condemns indiscriminate attacks wherever they happen, he said. But “any measures that the Security Council is going to implement against those indiscriminate attacks ... should not impede the efforts of the government to fight terrorism.”

The meeting, organized by France’s U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre and Spain’s U.N. Ambassador Roman Oyarzun Marchesi, followed appeals from more than 70 countries and over 80 international human rights and aid groups for immediate council action against the use of barrel bombs in Syria.

Pressured on whether there be a new council resolution, he said: “We’re working. We’re working,”

Bassam Alahmad, head of research at the Violations Documentation Center in Syria, said Russian “condemnation is important” but the Syrian people want action against the targeting of civilians by barrel bombs. From the beginning of 2015 until Thursday, there has been an upsurge in the number of victims - 1,160 civilians killed by Syrian barrel bombs including 290 children and 160 women.