Syria conflict: Children 'targeted by snipers'

Teenage boys most at risk in what Lyse Doucet says is a 'war on childhood'

More than 11,000 children have died in Syria's civil war in nearly three years, including hundreds targeted by snipers, a new report says.

Summary executions and torture have also been used against children as young as one, the London-based Oxford Research Group think tank says.

The report says the majority of children have been killed by bombs or shells in their own neighbourhoods.

It wants fighters trained in how not to put civilians' lives at risk.

This report is the first major examination of how children are being killed in Syria. It confirms what has long been regarded as one of the most disturbing aspects of this brutal conflict.

Syrian children are not just being "caught in crossfire." They're being deliberately targeted, and even tortured. The very start of this uprising is usually traced to the arrest in March 2011 of schoolboys in Daraa who were reportedly tortured for painting anti-government graffiti.

Nearly three years on, this report urges all sides in this conflict to spare the children, and calls for the threat of prosecution against those who commit the most egregious of atrocities.

Casualties are only one part of what this report calls the war's "catastrophic effect" on children. With so many schools and neighbourhoods in ruin, and children making up half of the refugees, Syria's conflict is also a war on childhood.

'Plea to all sides'

Their report, Stolen Futures - the Hidden Toll of Child Casualties in Syria, examines data from the start of the conflict in March 2011 to August 2013.

Of the 11,420 victims aged 17 and under, 389 were killed by sniper fire.

Some 764 were summarily executed, and more than 100 - including infants - were tortured, the report says.

Boys outnumbered girls among the dead by around two to one. Boys aged 13 to 17 were most likely to be victims of targeted killings, the report says.

The highest number of child deaths occurred in the governorate of Aleppo, where 2,223 were reported killed.

Report co-author Hana Salama said that the way children are being killed is disturbing.

"Bombed in their homes, in their communities, during day-to-day activities such as waiting in bread lines or attending school.

"Shot by bullets in crossfire, targeted by snipers, summarily executed, even gassed and tortured," she said.The data was provided by Syrian civil society groups recording casualties.

Deadliest area by population size Children killed % of total child deaths Population Rate

Deraa

1,134

10.1%

1,027,000

One in 408

Idlib

1,584

14.2%

1,501,000

One in 426

Homs

1,817

16.3%

1,803,000

One in 447

Rif Dimashq

1,772

15.9%

2,836,000

One in 720

Hama

821

7.3%

1,628,000

One in 892

Deir Ezzor

648

5.8%

1,239,000

One in 860

Aleppo

2,223

19.9%

4,868,000

One in 985

Damascus

749

6.7%

1,754,000

One in 1,054

The report only considers the deaths of named victims, and only cases where the cause of death could be identified.

But it stresses the figures are incomplete as access is impossible in some areas.

The figures should be "treated with caution and considered provisional: briefly put, it is too soon to say whether they are too high or too low", the report says.

Children run after a tank driven by fighters from the Tawhid Brigade, in Aleppo, November 11, 2013 These children in Aleppo are living in the midst of war
Men carry the coffin of one of four Syrian children who were killed Monday in Bab Sharqi neighbourhood, Damascus, Syria (12 Nov. 2013) Mortar fire killed this child in Damascus, along with three others, state media says
A Syrian woman from the city of Aleppo begs with her daughter Zahra (3) in a wealthy district of Beirut on November 16, 2013 Some refugees from Syria are now begging on the streets of Beirut in Lebanon
Syrian refugee children stand in front of their tents, at Zaatari Refugee Camp, in Mafraq, Jordan (5 Nov. 2013) Many Syrian families are living in refugee camps outside the country

The conflict in Syria has had a "catastrophic effect" on children in Syria, the report says, and calls for all sides to refrain from targeting civilians and buildings such as schools, hospitals and places of worship.

Amongst its recommendations, the Oxford Research Group also calls for access and protection for journalists and others contributing to the recording of casualties.

More than 100,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the conflict.

More than two million Syrians have fled the country; around half of those are believed to be children.

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