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Hundreds of Children Killed in Syrian Violence

  • Lisa Schlein

A Syrian child pass next to a portrait of Syrian President Bashar Assad, in Barzeh suburb of Damascus, Syria, on Thursday Nov. 10, 2011.

A Syrian child pass next to a portrait of Syrian President Bashar Assad, in Barzeh suburb of Damascus, Syria, on Thursday Nov. 10, 2011.

The U.N. Children’s Fund reports hundreds of children have been killed and hundreds more detained since anti-government unrest broke out in Syria nearly 11 months ago. UNICEF’s Executive Director Anthony Lake is calling on Syrian authorities to stop the violence, as government forces continue to bombard the city of Homs, a hub of protests.

The U.N. Children’s Fund says hundreds of children have been victims during Syria's violence. It says there are reports of children being arbitrarily arrested, tortured and sexually abused while in detention.

UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado says her organization is also dismayed at shelling by government forces of civilian neighborhoods in the city of Homs over the past few days. She says this undoubtedly is causing more suffering for more children. “The latest numbers that are available through the local human rights organizations working in Syria on children dead and in detention are over 400 dead and also over 400 in detention as at the end of January. Again, these are from Syrian human rights organizations that we find to be credible," she said.

Human rights organizations report more than 6,000 people have been killed since mass protests against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad erupted in mid-March.

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake is calling for an end to the violence in Syria. In a statement issued in Geneva, he says even one child killed is one child too many. Lake urges the Syrian authorities to allow help to all those who desperately need it.

In recent days, Syria’s third largest city, Homs, has been under what has been described as the deadliest government assault since the uprising began. Residential areas have been hit by heavy shelling and machine-gun fire by government troops determined to take control of the city.

UNICEF spokeswoman Mercado says children are being caught up in the violence. “UNICEF does not have access to the affected areas of Homs and cannot confirm the impact of the attacks there, but there are credible reports, including from international media inside Homs, that children are caught in the violence. Those injured must be given immediate and unconditional access to specialized medical care," she said.

Mercado says UNICEF is in constant dialogue with the Syrian authorities. She says the agency reminds the authorities that Syria is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Under the Convention, she says, Syria has an obligation to protect children.