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Thousands of children have been killed by Assad's forces in Syria 'reconquest' campaigns Open in fullscreen

James Reinl

Thousands of children have been killed by Assad's forces in Syria 'reconquest' campaigns

The suffering of Syrian children has been under the spotlight again in recent days [AFP]

Date of publication: 30 July, 2019

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Assad's forces and pro-government militias killed and injured over a thousand children in 2018, according to a report from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
Assad's forces and pro-government militias killed and injured over a thousand children in 2018, according to a report from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that will be published this week, an advance copy of which was seen by The New Arab

The report shows that the regime and its allies killed at least 1,132 in 2018. In 2017, that figure was 586.
 
Guterres said he was "seriously concerned" by the "highest number of violations ever verified" against children in Syria since the suppression of pro-democracy protests in 2011 spiralled into an all-out civil war that drew in foreign powers.
 
The UN chief said he was particularly worried about the "elevated numbers of child casualties and attacks against schools and hospitals" and demanded Assad’s government work on "long-term preventive measures" to halt child deaths. This comes as the regime continues to pursue a relentless offensive in Idlib province where an estimated one million child are currently at risk.

Last week, Save The Children and its partner organisation Hurras Network said recent child fatalities in Idlib this year already exceeded the total for 2018.
 
Most of the child casualties from last year occurred in Idlib, Rif Dimashq and Aleppo - which all saw bitter fighting during 2018 as Assad's and pro-government militias have sought to wrest control over the rebel-held areas.
 
Some 987 casualties resulted from airstrikes, including those involving barrel bombs and cluster munitions, while 434 were caused by unexploded ordnance and 118 more from shelling, the report says. 
 
UN chief Guterres also used his 43-page document to highlight the barrel bomb attack on a residential area in Armanaz town, Idlib province, in January 2018, that caused the deaths of 15 children.
 
The UN also verified 113 attacks on schools, a 69 percent increase compared with 2017, and 112 attacks on hospitals, the highest number recorded since the beginning of the conflict. Again, the attacks were mostly pinned on government and pro-regime forces.
 
Syria's mission to the UN did not immediately respond to The New Arab's request for comment.
 
The report also blasted other groups for killing and injuring youngsters, including the Islamic State group (70 cases), factions of the rebel Free Syrian Army (54), the jihadist Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (25) and others.
 
It also criticised the United States-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of armed groups that includes the Kurdish People's Protection Unit (YPG), for enlisting 313 youngsters into its ranks.
The UN's annual report on children and armed conflict does not subject those listed to action but rather shames parties to conflicts
The UN's annual report on children and armed conflict does not subject those listed to action but rather shames parties to conflicts in the hope of pushing them to implement measures so that fewer youngsters get hurt and killed. 
 
Assad's forces, pro-government militias and other parties were named in the annexes of the report - which has been dubbed the "list of shame" of violators of child rights. The YPG was named on a separate list after pledging to demobilise child fighters. 
 
"Last year was a devastating year for children in Syria, with record numbers killed or seriously injured," Adrianne Lapar, a programme director at Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, a campaign group, told The New Arab
 
"All warring parties - including Syria, Russia, and the US-led counter-IS coalition - must end attacks on civilians and put in place robust measures to protect schools, hospitals, and other places frequented by children."
 
Lapar also highlighted the large number of children who are detained in the Al-Hol refugee camp in northern Syria, which holds some 70,000 people, mostly women and children relatives of alleged IS fighters.
 
"These children are first and foremost victims, who deserve to be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society, not jailed and mistreated," said Lapar. 
 
The suffering of Syrian children has been under the spotlight again in recent days thanks to the footage of a five-year-old girl's desperate attempt to save her baby sister from falling down a bomb-hit building. 
 
Footage by Syrian media outlet SY24 showed the girl, Riham, trapped in the rubble holding her infant sister by her shirt as their father looked on in horror moments after the building they were in was hit by government or government-backed air raid in Idlib province.
 
Fighting in Syria has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.
 
The UN report also spotlighted other turbulent countries. 
 
A Saudi-led military coalition fighting in Yemen killed or injured 729 children during 2018, accounting for nearly half the total child casualties, said the report to the UN Security Council that blacklisted the coalition for a third year.
 
It also reported that the highest number of Palestinian children had been killed or injured last year since 2014, mainly by Israeli forces, though no parties were blacklisted in the annex to the annual Children in Armed Conflict report.


James Reinl is a journalist, editor and current affairs analyst. He has reported from more than 30 countries and won awards for covering wars in Sri Lanka, Congo and Somalia, Haiti's earthquake and human rights abuses in Iran.

Follow him on Twitter: @jamesreinl

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