World, Middle East

Despite US warnings, Assad hits Daraa with barrel bombs

Washington holds Assad regime responsible for last week’s deadly chemical attack in Idlib

Despite US warnings, Assad hits Daraa with barrel bombs

By Levent Tok and Mohamed Misto

DARAA, Syria 

Despite U.S. warnings, Syrian regime helicopters on Wednesday dropped several barrel-bombs on opposition-held parts of the southwestern city of Daraa, according to a local civil-defense official.

"The bombs damaged a number of homes in the area," Mohamed al-Zuz told Anadolu Agency, adding that the attacks had nevertheless failed to cause any deaths or injuries.

"The regime and Russia this month have stepped up attacks on Daraa,” al-Zuz said. “Since April 1, regime helicopters have dropped at least 78 barrel-bombs on opposition-held parts of city.”

Daraa’s city center is comprised of two main areas: the new district of Daraa al-Mahata and the old district of Daraa al-Balad.

While regime forces hold most of Daraa al-Mahata, opposition forces remain in control of Daraa al-Balad, with the exception of the Menshiya neighborhood.

In the wake of a deadly chemical attack in Syria’s Idlib province on April 4, the White House warned it would respond with force to any further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime.

Barrel-bombs are improvised devices typically consisting of barrels filled with explosive material, shrapnel, oil or chemicals. They are usually dropped from army helicopters.

While most barrel bombs dropped in recent weeks have targeted Daraa, they have also been used in Syria’s Idlib and Hama provinces and on the outskirts of capital Damascus.

According to the U.K.-based Syrian Network for Human Rights, the Assad regime has dropped as many as 32,000 barrel bombs -- killing more than 2,500 people -- since the beginning of 2015.

Two days after the chemical attack in Idlib, U.S. military forces fired 59 cruise missiles at Syria’s Shayrat Airbase, resulting in extensive damage to the facility.

Following the barrage, Moscow and Tehran issued a joint statement in which they declared that any further “acts of aggression” by Washington would “not be tolerated”.

*Ali Murat Alhas contributed to this report from Ankara

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