Accessibility links

Breaking News

UK Report Accuses Syria of Targeting Children

A child wounded by shelling is treated at a makeshift hospital at the Qusseer neighbourhood of Homs, July 18, 2012.
A child wounded by shelling is treated at a makeshift hospital at the Qusseer neighbourhood of Homs, July 18, 2012.
LONDON — A report published Monday by a British group that helps children in conflict zones said Syrian children are being "deliberately targeted" and documents hundreds of deaths and recruitment for armed conflict.

War Child is a non-governmental group that is providing emergency assistance to Syrian children who are refugees in Lebanon. Its chief executive is Rob Williams.

“Children normally suffer in conflict as collateral damage: if there is war going on then children may be caught in the crossfire," said Williams. "In this particular conflict they have been deliberately targeted.”

The report is based on information gathered from documents published by the United Nations and Human Rights Watch, among others, and from interviews War Child carried out with victims and witnesses.

It said up to 1,300 children have been killed in Syria’s conflict, including in execution-style killings.

Williams said 49 children were among more than 100 civilians massacred in late May in Houla, a town north of the flashpoint city of Homs.

“There are children giving eye-witness accounts of how they have seen their brothers or sisters cut down in the street by armed forces," Williams added. "There are accounts of children being abducted from their houses, rounded up and then put on the front of government tanks and armored personnel carriers to act as human shields as they advance into an opposition held area.”

A U.N. investigating commission said it was not possible to determine with any certainty who carried out the killings in Houla, although the panel's head said forces loyal to the government may have responsible for many of the deaths.

Syrian troops have been battling opposition forces in Syria since last year. According to Britain-based activists, more than 2,750 people have been killed so far this month, bringing the death toll since the conflict began to more than 19,000.

Williams said in the long term, donors will need to help Syria rebuild the infrastructure that children depend on - schools, health centers and hospitals.

“It takes about 10 years for a country to recover from a civil war in terms of economic growth and also infrastructure that's been damaged," he said. "This isn't just going to be over in 24 months - we need donors to stay committed to Syria for the longer term.”

According to the report by War Child, children as young as 8-years-old have been enlisted as fighters.

Both Syrian government forces and rebel fighters have been accused of U.N. violations against children and making them party to the conflict.