A perfidious invention: barrel bombs the Assad government is throwing out of helicopters onto residential urban areas of Syria. The steel barrels contain accelerant and e.g. nails, for large possibly napalm-like explosions that distribute sharp shrapnel. Opposition sources indicated these hardware-store bombs are being used for terrorism of civilians living in rebel-controlled areas; one was dropped near a school for example.
Meanwhile, the peaceful protesters who tried to oust the violent Assad family by nonviolent means and then understandably fled the country in droves suffered in an unusual blizzard last month, which dropped ~40 cm of snow on Jerusalem in early December 2013. German news showed footage of families living in tents on frozen dirt floors, with plastic tarp walls not even keeping out the wind, in Jordan, or a dozen people crowded into one unheated room with a weeping wet ceiling in Lebanon. Asking for several billion dollars in aid, especially from wealthy neighbors like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the United Nations estimated the number of Syrian refugees would increase to several million in the next year, while three-quarters of Syria’s population might experience food shortages. There’s talk too of a lost generation because, it was estimated in a U.N.H.C.R. report, ~3 million Syrian children aren’t attending school because of the war.
Update on 29 Dec 2013: Spiegel.de said a “rebel-friendly human rights organization” reported that Syria’s air force used the dreaded barrel bombs to blow up an open-air fruit-and-veg market in Aleppo’s old city on a Saturday morning.
Update on 19 Apr 2014: ZDF heute journal said the Assad troops dropped >300 barrel bombs from helicopters in March 2014; it’s unclear whether that was just over Aleppo or all battle zones in Syria.
For what it’s worth, a London-based Arabic-language newspaper said the Assads are hiring foreign mercenaries as pilots, possibly because some Syrian troops have refused to fly these helicopters.
(Eye nah peah FEE dah eah FINNED oong.)