THE Syrian regime has deployed a deadly new home-made weapon in addition to its large arsenal of Russian-supplied armaments -- bombs packed inside large oil drums and dropped from helicopters.
The "barrel bombs" have emerged as an improvised weapon as the regime seeks to break rebel resistance in Aleppo. Filled with TNT, oil and chunks of steel, the exploding barrels kill and maim across a wider area than high explosives.
"The sound was like nothing else I've ever heard. It was an almighty whoosh," said Mohammed Ibrahim, a fighter recovering from an explosion he said was of terrifying intensity.
"I was lucky I was standing behind a corner, but I was still knocked off my feet. When I came round my ears were bleeding."
Resembling a bandaged survivor of the Great War trenches, he staggered as he displayed his injuries. The blast had killed his cousin, Abdo, and injured three fellow fighters from the Khatiba al-Baz (Hawk Battalion), a rebel unit from towns north of Aleppo.
Like thousands of others, he had been fighting on the streets of Aleppo for six weeks, taking and losing ground in clashes that swirl without conclusion across the once-prosperous city.
The regime responded to the rebel advance by trying to drive back its enemies from a distance. Tanks have used the ring roads to fire shells on rebel lines and helicopter gunships rake enemy positions. Jets have dropped bombs that have flattened whole blocks of houses.
But apparently dissatisfied with the level of destruction its munitions mete out, the regime this week introduced the home-made bombs. A spokesman for the local co-ordination committee in northern Aleppo said the bombs had been used in at least two areas of the city.
"The first incident was over a public park in the Bab al-Nairab area of the city where people had taken refuge from the shelling," said Abu Amir.
"They were ordinary people who were defenceless against this type of attack."
The Khatiba al-Baz was fighting in Bustan al-Kasr, near Aleppo's ancient citadel, on Tuesday when the barrel bomb fell. (© Daily Telegraph, London)