Five-Year Review: Non-signatory Syria has expressed interest in the convention, but has not taken any steps toward accession. Syria participated in one meeting of the convention in September 2011.
Syria has denied possessing or using cluster munitions, but evidence shows that Syrian government forces have used cluster munitions extensively since mid-2012. Government forces used at least seven types cluster munitions in multiple locations across 10 governorates of Syria. Islamic State (IS) forces also used cluster munitions in northern Syria in the second half of 2014. The cluster munition attacks in Syria have attracted widespread media coverage as well as public outcry and condemnations by more than 140 states.
The Syrian Arab Republic has not acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
The Syrian government made its only statement on the matter of accession in September 2011, when a representative informed a meeting of the Convention on Cluster Munitions that Syria views cluster munitions as “criminalized by humanity” and said, “We appreciate the international effort to ban these weapons, but cannot sign due to Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights.”
Syria did not participate in the Oslo Process that created the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
It has attended just one meeting of the convention, when it participated as an observer in the convention’s Second Meeting of States Parties in Beirut, Lebanon in September 2011.
Syria is not party to the Mine Ban Treaty or the Convention on Conventional Weapons, but acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention in September 2013.
Production, transfer, and stockpiling
Syria is not known to have produced cluster munitions.
Based on evidence of cluster munition use by government forces since 2012, Syria has imported at least seven types of cluster munitions made by two countries:
- Six types of cluster munitions manufactured by the Soviet Union (now Russia): air-dropped RBK-250 PTAB-2.5M, RBK-250-275 AO-1SCh, and RBK-500 ShOAB-0.5 bombs, as well as ground-launched 9M55K 300mm Smerch rockets containing 9N235 fragmentation submunitions, 9M27K-series 220mm Uragan rockets, and KMGU dispensers containing PTAB-2.5KO bomblets.
- 122mm surface-fired SAKR rockets produced by Egypt that contain dual-purpose improved conventional munition (DPICM) submunitions.
It is not known when the Syrian government imported its cluster munition stocks or in what quantities.
IS used a DPICM-type submunitions of unknown delivery method and origin called “ZP-39” in Syria in 2014. It is not clear how IS obtained cluster munitions.
Since mid-2012, government forces have used cluster munitions in multiple locations across 10 of Syria’s 14 governorates. Syrian government forces have used at least seven types of cluster munitions, including air-dropped bombs, dispensers fixed to aircraft, and ground-launched rockets, and at least eight types of explosive submunitions. IS forces have used at least one type of cluster munition and submunition (the "ZP-39").
Cluster munitions used in Syria (July 2012–June 2015)
Type of cluster munition
Date first used
RBK-250-275 cluster bomb, each containing 150 AO-1SCh submunitions
RBK-250 cluster bomb, each containing 30 PTAB-2.5M fragmentation submunitions
122mm SAKR rockets, each containing either 72 or 98 DPICM submunitions
RBK-500 cluster bomb, each containing 565 ShOAB-0.5 submunitions
BKF cartridges containing 96 PTAB-2.5KO submunitions
AO-2.5RT submunitions (delivery system not known)
9M55K 300mm rockets, each containing 72 9N235 fragmentation submunitions
9M27K-series 220mm rockets, each containing 30 fragmentation submunitions
“ZP-39” DPICM submunition (delivery system not known)
Initial reports of the use of RBK-series air-dropped cluster bombs containing AO-1SCh and PTAB-2.5M bomblets emerged in mid-2012, when the government began its air campaign on rebel-held areas. It continued to use air-dropped cluster bombs in 2013 and 2014, adding the use of RBK-500 cluster bombs containing ShOAB-0.5 submunitions and AO-2.5RT and PTAB-2.5KO submunitions, the delivery system of which was not clear. It is unclear if the Syrian government has continued to use air-dropped cluster bombs in 2015, especially since government forces intensified use of other air-dropped munitions such as improvised “barrel bombs.”
The first use of ground-launched cluster munitions in Syria was recorded at the end of 2012, when government forces used multi-barrel rocket launchers to deliver 122mm SAKR cluster munition rockets containing DPICM submunitions with distinctive white ribbons. In early 2014, the use of 9M55K and 9M27K-series surface-to-surface rockets containing 9N235 submunitions fitted with self-destruct mechanisms was first documented. At the time, Human Rights Watch (HRW) attributed this use to the Syrian government.
On 15 August 2015, the local authorities of `Ayn al-`Arab (Kobani in Kurdish), on Syria’s northern border with Turkey, issued a media advisory warning the local population of the dangers posed by cluster munition remnants it said were “fired by Daash [IS] mercenaries on villages” near the town. According to HRW, the reports and photographs showed IS forces used a DPICM-like submunition in July and August 2015 during fighting near Kobani. Various arms experts dubbed the DPICM-like submunitions, with a distinctive red nylon stabilizing ribbon, the “ZP-39” submunition, but its country of origin and information on its contents and intended delivery system (likely by Sakr rocket) are not known. The same “ZP-39” submunitions were also used in Yemen in April 2015.
In May 2015, Handicap International (HI) reported that remnants of ground-delivered cluster munitions with DPICM submunitions had been cleared from `Ayn al-`Arab/Kobani, but did not attribute responsibility for the cluster munition use to a specific force.
As the conflict in Syria continues to deepen, it is not possible to determine with confidence if cluster munitions have been used by opposition groups other than IS. There is some evidence that unexploded submunitions have been used as improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by opposition forces.
There has been no evidence to indicate that the US is using cluster munitions in the “Operation Inherent Resolve” military action against forces of IS that began last year in Syria and Iraq, including in the air campaign in `Ayn al-`Arab/Kobani.
In 2014 and first half of 2015, there were fewer reports of cluster munition use compared to 2013 and the second half of 2012, with a particularly significant drop in evidence indicating the use of air-dropped cluster bombs.
Remnants of Sakr cluster munition rockets and/or unexploded DPICM submunitions including “ZP-39” submunitions were filmed in several videos posted online between October 2014 and June 2015, indicating ground-launched cluster munition rockets continue to be used by government and/or IS forces and/or other forces:
- Three videos uploaded in October 2014 and January 2015 that were apparently filmed at Al-Taybeh in Daraa governorate.
- A video uploaded in October 2014 that was apparently filmed at Al-Harra in Daraa governorate.
- Six videos uploaded between 29 April and 10 June 2015 that were apparently filmed at Zakia in rural Damascus.
- A video uploaded on 19 May 2015 and apparently filmed in rural Daraa governorate;
- A video uploaded on 22 July 2014 and apparently filmed at Al Wazi’yah in Homs governorate.
- A video uploaded on 13 August 2014 and apparently filmed outside Ayn al’Arab/Kobani in Aleppo governorate.
The Victim Documentation Center in Syria, a local NGO that tracks victims of the conflict in Syria, recorded the deaths of several civilians from cluster munition use in 2014 and the first half of 2015.
Responses to the use of cluster munitions
The Syrian military has denied possessing or using cluster munitions, but usually does not respond to or comment on new use of cluster munitions. IS has not responded to its reported use of cluster munitions.
The civilian harm caused by the use of cluster munitions in Syria has attracted widespread media coverage, public outcry, and condemnations from more than 140 states. At least 41 of these states have made national statements to condemn the use, including by the foreign ministers from Convention on Cluster Munitions States Parties Austria, Belgium, Costa Rica, Denmark, France, Germany, Mexico, Norway, and the UK.
States have adopted three UN General Assembly resolutions since May 2013 condemning the use of cluster munitions in Syria:
- Resolution 69/189 adopted on 18 December 2014 by a vote of 127 states in favor, which expressed “outrage” at “continued…indiscriminate use of…cluster munitions.”
- Resolution 68/182 adopted on 18 December 2013 by a vote of 127 states in favor, which expressed “outrage” at the “continued…use of…cluster munitions.”
- Resolution 67/262 adopted on 15 May 2013 by a vote of 107 states in favor, which expressed “grave concern” at “continued widespread and systematic gross violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, including those involving the…indiscriminate use of…cluster munitions, by the Syrian authorities against the Syrian population.”
States have adopted four Human Rights Council resolutions since April 2014 condemning the use of cluster munitions in Syria:
- Resolution 29/16 adopted on 2 July 2015 by a vote of 29 states in favor, which “condemns the use by the Syrian authorities of…cluster munitions.”
- Resolution 28/20 adopted on 8 April 2015 by a vote of 29 states in favor, which “strongly condemns…the indiscriminate use of…cluster munitions…by the Syrian authorities against the Syrian population.”
- Resolution 26/23 adopted on 17 July 2014 by a vote of 32 states in favor, which “condemns…the indiscriminate use of…cluster bombs” by “Syrian authorities and affiliated militias.”
- Resolution 25/23 on 9 April 2014 by a vote of 32 states in favor, which “strongly condemns…the indiscriminate use of…cluster bombs” by “Syrian authorities and affiliated militias.
The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, which reports to the Human Rights Council, has reported on cluster munition use several times.
At the June 2015 intersessional meetings of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, more than two-dozen states condemned or expressed concern at new use of cluster munitions, half of which specifically condemned the continued use of cluster munitions in Syria.
At the UN General Assembly (UNGA) First Committee on Disarmament and Security in October 2014, the European Union stated, “We are deeply concerned about reports of alleged use of cluster munitions against civilian populations in Syria and we call upon all concerned to refrain from such use.” The CMC also condemned the continued use of cluster munitions in Syria.
More than two-dozen states condemned new use of cluster munitions over the course of the Fifth Meeting of States Parties in September 2014, of which 24 specifically condemned the use in Syria. In a statement delivered to the opening of the meeting, UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki-moon described, “the carnage caused by cluster munitions in Syria” as “a direct violation” of international humanitarian law. Costa Rica as president the Fifth Meeting of States Parties, described the use of cluster munitions in Syria and also South Sudan and Ukraine as “unacceptable” and urged all states to condemn new cluster munition use to help increase the stigma against the weapons. The CMC challenged the participating states to “add your voice to the firestorm of public condemnation of the use of cluster munitions in Syria.”
At the April 2014 intersessional meetings of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, several states expressed their concern at the continued use of cluster munitions in Syria, including New Zealand, Netherlands, and Norway, as well as the CMC.
 Additionally, AO-2.5RT submunitions have been identified, though it is unclear whether these were delivered by RBK-series bomb or KMGU dispensers.
 It is not known if Syria was the source for Chinese Type-81 122mm cluster munition rockets fired by Hezbollah into northern Israel from southern Lebanon in July–August 2006.
 A review by Human Rights Watch (HRW) of the markings on the RBK-series air-dropped bombs and the submunitions contained inside them, as well as a comparison with the Soviet manuals for the weapons, show that they were manufactured at Soviet state munitions factories in the 1970s and early 1980s. The 9M55K 330mm cluster munition rocket was designed and initially manufactured by the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and then manufactured and exported by the Russian Federal State Unitary Enterprise “SPLAV State Research And Production Association” from 1991 onward. In 2004, Jane’s Information Group listed Syria as possessing some of the RBK-series air-dropped bombs as well as the KMGU dispensers, indicating that the stocks used after 2012 were not newly-manufactured. Robert Hewson, ed., Jane’s Air-Launched Weapons, Issue 44 (Surrey, UK: Jane’s Information Group Limited, 2004), p. 846.
 No cluster munition use has been recorded in the governorates of Tartus, Quneitra, As-Suwayda, or Al-Hasakah. Previously, Cluster Munition Monitor 2014 reported that at least 249 cluster munitions were used in multiple locations across 10 governorates from July 2012 until July 2014, according to HRW. Since 2012, HRW has researched and recorded cluster munition use in Syria and is responsible for documenting cluster munition use in its capacity as the Monitor’s ban policy editor. The information contained in this Monitor profile summarizes and updates information it has provided in press releases and an April 2014 briefing note. See HRW, “Technical Briefing Note: Use of Cluster Munitions in Syria,” 4 April 2014.
 In addition, ZAB incendiary submunitions delivered by RBK bombs have been used by government forces, but this weapon is not accounted for by the Monitor as it is not considered to be an explosive submunition covered by the Convention on Cluster Munitions. An incendiary weapon, the ZAB submunitions ignite after release from its container instead of detonating on, before, or after impact. For further information on Syria’s use of incendiary weapons, see HRW Memorandum to CCW Delegates, “Syria Use of Incendiary Weapons,” November 2013.
 The 250-kilogram class RBK-series cluster bombs can be delivered by jet aircraft as well as rotary wing aircraft, such as Mi-24 and Mi-8 series helicopters. Brown Moses Blog, “Evidence of cluster bombs being deployed in Syria,” 10 July 2012; and HRW Press Release, “Syria: Evidence of Cluster Munitions Use by Syrian Forces,” 12 July 2012.
 AO-2.5RT and PTAB-2.5KO submunitions are capable of being loaded into BKF cartridges and dispersed by KMG-U dispensers. The AO-2.5RT submunition can also be delivered by the RBK-500 cluster bomb.
 It is not known if the 122mm rockets are SAKR-18 or SAKR-36 variants, which contain 72 and 98 submunitions respectively. The design of the fuze system in this type of submunition makes it very sensitive and submunitions that fail to explode on initial impact are liable to detonate if disturbed. HRW Press Release, “Syria: Army Using New Type of Cluster Munition,” 14 January 2013.
 HRW stated, “It is highly unlikely that rebel forces could acquire the eight-wheeled, 43,700 kilogram launch vehicle or operate its sophisticated fire control system without significant training or time to conduct practice drills. There is no video evidence or written claims that any rebel group controls any BM-30 launchers, its similarly sized re-supply vehicle, or any 300mm surface-to-surface rockets like the 9M55K rocket.” HRW Press Release, “Syria: New Deadly Cluster Munition Attacks,” 19 February 2014.
 HRW, “Syria: Evidence of Islamic State Cluster Munition Use,” 1 September 2014.
 Markings on some of the submunitions indicate they were manufactured in 1993. Brown Moses Blog, “The markings on what’s assumed to be a Sakr submunition suggests the designation is ZP39, made in 1993,” 4 April 2014.
 Two types of unexploded DPICM submunitions have been by HI experts in Kobani, including an M42-type submunition with a white ribbon. Email from Alma Al-Osta, Arms Advocacy Manager, Handicap International – Belgium, 27 May 2015. See also HI Factsheet, “Kobani: City of rubble and unexploded devices,” May 2015.
 Submunitions from RBK cluster bombs continue to be recorded in videos. For example, a video uploaded on 4 July 2015 and apparently filmed in Daraa governorate shows the tail fin of an RBK-250 cluster bomb and AO-1Sch submunitions, while a video uploaded on 14 July 2014 and apparently filmed in eastern Hama shows ShOAB-0.5 submunitions.
 See the DPICM in video uploaded to YouTube on 29 April 2015; video uploaded to YouTube on 29 April 2015;, video uploaded to YouTube on 29 April 2015;,video uploaded to YouTube on 14 May 2015; and video uploaded to YouTube on 10 June 2015; and the Sakr remnants in video uploaded to YouTube on 8 June 2015.
 According to the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), “the General Command of the Army and the Armed Forces stressed on [15 October 2012] that the misleading media outlets have recently published untrue news claiming the Syrian Arab Army has been using cluster bombs against terrorists.” According to SANA, “the General [in] Command said the Syrian Army does not possess such bombs.” “Syria denies using cluster bombs,” CNN, 16 October 2012. In March 2013, Syrian diplomatic representatives denied the evidence of Syrian cluster bomb use. Letter from Firas al Rashidi, Charge d’affair ad interim, Embassy of the Syrian Arab Republic to Japan, to the Japanese Campaign to Ban Landmines, 7 March 2013.
 A total of 143 countries have condemned the use of cluster munitions in Syria via national statements and/or by endorsing resolutions or joint statements. They include 93 States Parties and signatories (Afghanistan, Albania, Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovia (BiH), Botswana, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Lao PDR, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia FYR, Madagascar, Malawi, Malta, Mauritania, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Mozambique, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, the UK, and Uruguay) and 51 non-signatories (Argentina, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Dominica, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, Gabon, Georgia, Greece, Israel, Jordan, Kiribati, South KoreaKuwait, Latvia, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Micronesia, Mongolia, Morocco, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Slovakia, Solomon Islands, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Turkey, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, the US, Vanuatu, and Yemen).
 National statements condemning the use of cluster munitions in Syria have been made by Australia, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Ghana, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Lao PDR, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mauritania, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Portugal, Qatar, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, Swaziland, Switzerland, and Togo, Turkey, and the US.
 “Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic,” UNGA Resolution A/RES/69/189, 18 December 2014.
 “Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic,” UNGA Resolution A/RES/68/182, 18 December 2013.
 “The grave and deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation in the Syrian Arab Republic,” Human Rights Council Resolution A/HRC/29/L.4, 29 June 2015.
 “The continuing grave deterioration in the human rights and humanitarian situation in the Syrian Arab Republic,” UN Human Rights Council Resolution A/HRC/RES/28/20, 8 April 2015.
 “The continuing grave deterioration in the human rights and humanitarian situation in the Syrian Arab Republic,” UN Human Rights Council Resolution A/HRC/RES/26/23, 17 July 2014.
 “The continuing grave deterioration of the human rights and humanitarian situation in the Syrian Arab Republic,” UN Human Rights Council Resolution A/HRC/RES/25/23, 9 April 2014.
 “Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic,” UN Human Rights Council Report, A/HRC/28/69, 5 February 2015.
 Austria, Belgium, Burundi, Canada, Croatia, Ecuador, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, and Norway.
 Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Ecuador, France, Germany, Guatemala, Ireland, Italy, Mauritania, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Portugal, Slovenia, Somalia, and Switzerland.
 Statement of Costa Rica, Convention on Cluster Munitions Fifth Meeting of States Parties, San José, 3 September 2014.