Cluster Munition Deaths in Ukraine Pass Syria, Fueling Rise in a Weapon the World Has Tried to Ban

More than 300 people were killed and over 600 wounded by cluster munitions in Ukraine in 2022, according to an international watchdog, surpassing Syria as the country with the highest number of casualties from the controversial weapons for the first time in a decade.

Russia’s widespread use of the bombs, which open in the air and release scores of smaller bomblets or submunitions as they are called, in its invasion of Ukraine — and, to a lesser extent, their use by Ukrainian forces — helped make 2022 the deadliest year on record globally, according to the annual report released Tuesday by the Cluster Munition Coalition, a network of non-governmental organizations advocating for a ban of the weapons.

The deadliest attack in Ukraine, according to the the country’s prosecutor general’s office, was a bombing on a railway station in the town of Kramatorsk that killed 53 people and wounded 135.

Meanwhile, in Syria and other war-battered countries in the Middle East, although active fighting has cooled down, the explosive remnants continue to kill and maim dozens of people every year.

The long-term danger posed to civilians by explosive ordnance peppered across the landscape for years — or even decades after fighting has ceased — has come under a renewed spotlight since the United States announced in July that it would provide them to Ukraine to use against Russia.

In Syria, 15 people were killed and 75 wounded by cluster munition attacks or their remnants in 2022, according to the coalition’s data. Iraq, where there were no new cluster bomb attacks reported last year, saw 15 people killed and 25 wounded. In Yemen, which also had no new reported attacks, five people were killed and 90 were wounded by the leftover explosives.

The majority of victims globally are children. Because some types of these bomblets resemble metal balls, children often pick them up and play with them without knowing what they are.

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