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Destroyed buildings and rubble after bombing in Aden Yemen in 2017
Stop Bombing Civilians

Heavy explosive weapons should not be used in populated areas

The United Nations has released its new annual report on the protection of civilians in war zones and calls on States to reach an international agreement against human suffering caused by bombing in populated areas. 

Every year, Secretary General of the United Nations António Guterres publishes a report on the protection of civilians in conflict zones. Bombing and shelling in urban areas is identified as a major problem.

More than 50 million people were affected by conflict in urban areas in 2020, according to the latest report. In countries such as Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen, the use of explosive weapons in populated areas has had devastating consequences for civilians. 

Need for international agreement 

In the report, Guterres calls on states to develop an international agreement against human suffering caused by bombing in populated areas. As part of a two-year international diplomatic process, states, international organizations and civil societies, including Humanity & Inclusion, have been working to draft proposed text. That proposed agreement is expected to be submitted to states for approval by the end of the year. 

Humanity & Inclusion supports Guterres’ call, noting that the report stresses once again that there should be a presumption against the use of explosive weapons with wide area effect in populated areas.  Humanity & Inclusion also welcomes more transparency in recording conflict casualties to help “facilitate accountability, recovery and reconciliation.” 

“No explosive weapons with wide area effect in populated areas should be the international norm.” - Anne Héry, Humanity & Inclusion’s Advocacy Director 

Dramatic humanitarian consequences 

88% of those killed and injured by explosive weapons in populated areas are civilians. Injured people risk life-long disabilities and grave psychological trauma. Infrastructure required for essential services such as health, water, electricity and sanitation is often damaged or destroyed.

For example, after 10 years of war in Syria at least one-third of all homes are damaged or destroyed. Major cities like Raqqa, Aleppo and Homs have been largely demolished by extensive and intense use of explosive weapons. In 2017, 80% of the city of Raqqa was destroyed.

More recently in Gaza, 230 buildings were destroyed over 11 days of conflict. Six hospitals, 11 primary healthcare centers and 48 schools were damaged. Electricity, water, sanitation and hygiene facilities were severely affected. This infrastructure damage will have a deep and long-term impact on civilians.

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Image: Heavy destruction in the streets of Aden, Yemen, in October 2017. Copyright: HI