GENEVA - The U.N. Children's Fund said Thursday that 1,106 children were killed in Syria in 2018, making it the deadliest year for children since the war began there in 2011.
At least 12 people, including children, reportedly were killed Wednesday when missiles were fired into a crowded camp for displaced people in Idlib Governorate, in northwest Syria. A nearby maternity hospital was damaged and four humanitarian workers were injured.
The day before, UNICEF said, at least 10 children were killed and 28 were wounded in fighting between Turkey and Syrian Kurds in northeastern Syria.
UNICEF Syria representative Fran Equiza said children have been subjected to such horrors for nearly nine years.
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"The scale, severity and complexity of the crisis is staggering,” Equiza said. “Last year was the deadliest year for the children in Syria. And, very unfortunately, it looks as if this year is following the same trend. We have been able to verify 657 children killed in Syria since the beginning of the year. It is quite likely that the figure is much bigger than this one."
As of September, the United Nations had verified nearly 1,800 grave violations against children. This included killings, injuries, recruitment as child soldiers and abductions.
UNICEF said more than 5 million children in Syria need humanitarian assistance and more than half are internally displaced. It said some of the most vulnerable children are in the country's northeast. It said one in five children is stunted and 1.6 million people are in acute need of water and sanitation.
Equiza told VOA that defenseless children are among the 40,000 trapped in Al-Hol camp, which is run by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a mainly Kurdish militia.
"Of them, 28,000 are foreigners,” he said. “Of these 28,000, 20,000 are Iraqis and 8,000 are from around 60 different nationalities. Eighty percent of the children in the camp are below 12, and 15 percent of the children in the camp are below 5 years old."
Since most are children of Islamic State militants, they are treated as pariahs. Their countries of origin are reluctant to repatriate them, so they are forced to languish and endure dire conditions in the camp.
Equiza said these children are victims of crimes, not perpetrators. He said they should not be punished for the actions of their parents, but should be given hope for a meaningful life in the future.