ICRC Q&A on the issue of explosive weapons in populated areas

11 April 2017

Hostilities in contemporary armed conflicts are increasingly being conducted in population centres, thereby exposing civilians to heightened risks of harm. This trend is only likely to continue with growing urbanization and is compounded by the fact that belligerents often avoid facing their enemy in the open, intermingling instead with the civilian population. Despite this, armed conflicts often continue to be waged with weapon systems originally designed for use in open battlefields. There is generally no cause for concern when explosive weapons with a wide impact area are used in open battlefields, but when they are used against military objectives located in populated areas they are prone to indiscriminate effects, often with devastating consequences for the civilian population.