An image taken from video posted to YouTube by Syrian opposition activists purportedly shows incendiary submunitions burning in a playground in the town of Quseir, Dec. 3, 2012. / Human Rights Watch/YouTube
The Syrian military is using incendiary bombs in densely populated civilian areas, Human Rights Watch alleged in a report released Wednesday.
The U.S.-based rights group said interviews with Syrian witnesses and analysis of videos posted online by opposition activists provided sufficient proof that the weapons have been used in at least four areas in Syria, including parts of the capital city Damascus.
CBS News has had crews inside of Syria on several occasions this year, and has not encountered evidence of incendiary bomb use, but videos posted by opposition groups show what appear to be small fires left behind after the detonation of such devices.
Claim of the Syrian regime using the weapons continued even as the HRW report was published. A local opposition group in the Damascus suburb of Kfar Batna posted a video Wednesday on YouTube showing what the activists claimed were the remnants of one of the bombs still burning on the ground and nearby buildings. Like the hundreds of other Syrian opposition videos posted online every day, it is impossible to independently verify the content.
"We're disturbed that Syria has apparently begun using incendiary munitions, as these weapons cause especially cruel civilian suffering and extensive property destruction when used in populated areas," Steve Goose, HRW's Arms division director said in the report.
According to the report, the first documented attack by the Syrian forces using incendiary bombs occurred on Nov. 16, 2012. An activist in Daraya, a suburb of Damascus, claims to have caught it on tape.
"I saw MiG warplanes releasing bombs that would catch fire while they were still in the air," he recalls. "I saw four of these fireballs," which he says caused a large hole to burn in the street.
"Incendiary weapons produce extremely painful burns, often down to the bone, and can also cause respiratory damage," HRW said in its report. "The burns are difficult to treat, especially in conflict areas lacking adequate medical facilities, and the treatment itself can be excruciating. Permanent scarring and disfigurement can lead to social ostracism."
Syria is not a signatory to a legally-binding 1980 international convention which bans the use of incendiary bombs in populated civilian areas. The United States and 105 other nations did sign that agreement.