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UNICEF: 25 children killed in Syria airstrikes

Lewis Sanders IVJune 27, 2016

Attacks on children in Syria have become "commonplace," the UN body said. It called for the parties to the conflict to protect children, reporting that at least 6 million of them were in dire need of assistance.

A Syrian man sits next to his daughter, who is suffering disabilities due to injuries sustained in government shelling, at their home in Daraa
A Syrian man sits next to his daughter, who is suffering disabilities due to injuries sustained in government shelling, at their home in DaraaImage: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Al-Hamza

The UN Children's Emergency Fund said on Sunday that 25 children "were reportedly killed" during airstrikes on the Syrian town of Quoriya in the eastern Deir al-Zour province over the weekend. The town is controlled by the self-styled "Islamic State" militant group.

"Amid an intensification of violence, attacks on children in Syria are becoming commonplace with callous disregard for the lives of children. Under international humanitarian law, the killing and maiming of children is a grave violation against children," UNICEF said in a statement.

"Nothing justifies attacks on children - no matter where they are - nor under whose control they live. UNICEF deplores these attacks and calls on all parties to the conflict to keep children out of harm's way," it added.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that 47 people, including 31 civilians, were killed during Saturday's airstrikes on the town.

SOHR claimed the airstrikes were conducted by regime and Russian warplanes. However, Russia has consistently denied targeting civilians after it entered the conflict in September 2015 to support government forces.

More than 8 million children are in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria, according to UNICEF figures.

"Children are particularly vulnerable to grave child rights violations, such as recruitment into armed groups, exploitation and abuse, including forced early marriage and child labor," UNICEF said.

The conflict erupted in 2011, when government forces launched a violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters calling for President Bashar al-Assad to step down from office.

Since then, at least 200,000 people have been killed and nearly half of the population displaced, according to UN figures.

Water: 'A weapon of war'

UNICEF emergency communication specialist Toby Fricker told DW that the organization's priorities in Syria include providing humanitarian aid to areas under siege.

"Despite the security situation, UNICEF and partners are providing humanitarian aid through more regular convoys to hard to reach and besieged areas. This includes supplies such as: water, sanitation and hygiene kits, nutrition supplies and educational materials," Fricker said.

But Fricker pointed out that improving access to safe water is "of crucial importance" in Syria, especially during the summer months, when temperatures can exceed 40 degrees Celsius (104 F).

"Water has been used as a weapon of war, with parties to the conflict deliberately cutting supplies. UNICEF reminds all parties that access to water is a basic and fundamental right," Fricker told DW.

"For UNICEF, what's important is that children are better protected from the horrors of this brutal conflict," he added.