Sunday 18 March 2018

Syrian jets kill 9 children in school cluster-bombing

Ruth Sherlock Beirut

SYRIA has been accused of making innocent children targets after government forces appear to have dropped cluster bombs on a school playground where nine pupils died.

Activists published video footage showing at least nine dead children after a bombing run by a fighter jet against Deir al-Asafir, a village that has seen heavy fighting.

The plane was reported to have released cluster munitions that exploded in a schoolyard where more than a dozen children had been playing.

"Families had left their homes and taken shelter in the school. This is why there were many children in one place," said an activist calling herself Alexia Jade. "There was a break in the fighting and the children were outside playing."

Charity workers said the claims of the use of cluster munitions had been verified in previous phases of the conflict.

Video footage showed a row of what appeared to be unexploded bombs. "We collected 70 of these so far," a man said.

A Human Rights Watch report issued last month found that Assad's forces had used cluster bombs, which are banned under a UN treaty that Syria has not signed. Damascus rejected the claims.

The bombs release smaller "bomblets" that spread across a wide area. Many do not detonate on impact, "continuing to maim and kill long after the conflict has ended", said Kimberly Brown, a conflict adviser at the Save the Children charity. "There is no confirmation yet that cluster bombs are what caused the deaths of these children in Damascus. We are working on getting verification. We know that they have been used in the past in Syria and call for an immediate end to their use," she added.


Footage uploaded to YouTube and circulated on opposition activist networks showed dead children lying in a heap in the back of a car. Panicked adults are seen carrying the children into a makeshift field hospital, running past a girl who sits crying on the floor with blood running from a head wound.

A mother, apparently inside the clinic, stands over her dead daughter's body, her arms lifted to the sky in shock.

Further videos show what appear to be the empty cartridges of cluster munitions.

Syria's air force has bombed Atmeh, a village close to the Turkish border that had been treated as a refuge by rebels refugees.

Though it seemed no one was hurt, the attack caused widespread panic among refugees living in the area. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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