In more than two years of civil war in Syria, 11,420 children under the age of 17 have been killed, according to data analyzed by the Oxford Research Group. Of that number, seven in 10 died from explosive weapons, while others were killed by torture, sniper fire, executions, and chemical weapons. Boys were killed at almost double the rate of girls, and teenage boys were found to be the most vulnerable. Since the conflict began in March 2011, at least 113,000 Syrians have been killed and more than 2 million have fled the country.
The report, Stolen Futures: The Hidden Toll of Child Casualties in Syria, was released by the Oxford Research Group, an independent think tank based in Britain. It used figures provided by Syrian civil society groups that have been recording casualties.
The study found that from the start of the conflict in March 2011 through the month of August 2013, a total of 11,420 children age 17 or under had been killed, out of 113,735 civilians and combatants.
"What is most disturbing about the findings of this report is not only the sheer numbers of children killed in this conflict, but the way they are being killed," said co-author Hana Salama. "Bombed in their homes, in their communities, during day-to-day activities such as waiting in bread lines or attending school; shot by bullets in crossfire, targeted by snipers, summarily executed, even gassed and tortured. All conflict parties need to take responsibility for the protection of children, and ultimately find a peaceful solution for the war itself.”
The primary cause of death for children was explosives, which killed 7,557 youngsters. Small-arms fire killed 2,806 kids. These included 764 cases of summary execution and 389 cases in which children were specifically targeted by sniper fire, the report said.
The Oxford Research Group said Aleppo was the site of the most child deaths, with 2,223.
Another 128 children died Aug. 21 in chemical attacks in Ghouta, to the east of Damascus, the report said.
Teenage boys, ages 13 to 17, were the most frequent victims of targeted killings such as those involving sniper fire, execution or torture. But the report found at least 112 cases in which children – including some infants -- were tortured and killed.
The statistics are taken from the casualty lists of Syrian organizations from March 2011 to August 2013 and include only named victims.
The U.N. announced in late July that the overall death toll had topped 100,000.
“The grim and relentless rise in casualty numbers seems set to continue,” the authors wrote. “Likely to remain relatively constant, however, are the patterns of harm to children identified in this study, unless there is a very marked change in the Syrian conflict.”
"This study shows why explosive weapons should never be used where children live and play, how older children quickly become targets in a war and even the youngest suffer its worst abuses," said co-author Hamit Dardagan. "This grim and terrible record also shows why a sustainable peace, not more bombs and bullets, is the only way to guarantee the safety of children."
UPDATE: On Monday, as if to put an exclamation point on the report on the casualties among Syria's children, a bomb is dropped near a small group of children being interviewed by the media. Thankfully, the children appear unharmed after dashing to safety. Video below: