UNICEF says 2016 was worst year yet for Syria’s children

In this October 4, 2016 photo, a Syrian civil defense volunteer, known as the White Helmets, carries the body of a child pulled from the rubble following an air strike on the rebel-held neighborhood of Karm Homad in the northern city of Aleppo, Syria. UNICEF on Monday said at least 652 children were killed in Syria in 2016, making it the worst year yet for the country’s rising generation. (AFP file photo)
Updated 13 March 2017

UNICEF says 2016 was worst year yet for Syria’s children

BEIRUT: At least 652 children were killed in Syria in 2016, making it the worst year yet for the country’s rising generation, the United Nations’ child relief agency said Monday.
There was no letup to attacks on schools, hospitals, playgrounds, parks and homes last year as the Syrian government, its opponents and the allies of both sides showed callous disregard for the laws of war.
UNICEF said at least 255 children were killed in or near schools last year and 1.7 million youngsters are out of school. One of every three schools in Syria is unusable, some because armed groups occupy them. An additional 2.3 million Syrian children are refugees elsewhere in the Middle East.
The figures come in a UNICEF report released two days before the sixth anniversary of the popular uprising that escalated into civil war.
Children were among the first victims of the government’s brutal crackdown. On March 15, 2011, residents in the southern city of Daraa marched to demand the release of teenage students arrested for writing anti-government slogans on their school’s walls. They were tortured in detention.
The report warns that coping mechanisms and medical care are eroding quickly in Syria, driving children into child labor, early marriage and combat. Dozens are dying from preventable diseases.
A report released a week ago by the international charity Save the Children said Syrian youngsters are showing signs of “toxic stress” that can lead to lifelong health problems, struggles with addiction and mental disorders lasting into adulthood.
The use of child soldiers is on the rise in Syria, UNICEF said. At least 851 children were recruited by armed factions last year, more than twice compared to the year before.
Children across the country are at risk of severe injury while playing around land mines and cluster munitions. Demining operations in opposition-held areas have been severely hampered by inaccessibility to outside experts.


Hezbollah says 2 Israeli drones downed in south Beirut

Updated 25 August 2019

Hezbollah says 2 Israeli drones downed in south Beirut

  • Israelii jets earlier attacked targets near Syria’s capital of Damascus to pre-empt an alleged Iranian drone attack plot

BEIRUT: A Hezbollah official said Sunday that an Israeli drone went down over the Lebanese capital of Beirut and another exploded in the air, amid regional tensions between Israel and Iran.
Residents of the Iranian-backed group’s stronghold in southern Beirut reported one large explosion that shook the area early Sunday, triggering a fire. They said the nature of the blast in the Moawwad neighborhood was not immediately clear, but said it might have been caused by an Israeli drone that went down in the area amid Israeli air activity in neighboring Syria.
They said they heard an aircraft flying just before the blast and reported later that the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group sealed off the area. The blast occurred near the militant group’s media office in the Moawwad district.
The Hezbollah official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity as the person was not authorized to speak on the record to journalists. No details were immediately available.
Israeli warplanes fly over Lebanon regularly and have struck inside neighboring Syria from Lebanese airspace on numerous occasions.
A few hours earlier, late Saturday, the Israeli military attacked targets near Syria’s capital of Damascus in what it said was a successful effort to thwart an imminent Iranian drone strike on Israel, stepping up an already heightened campaign against Iranian military activity in the region.
The late-night airstrike, which triggered Syrian anti-aircraft fire, appeared to be one of the most intense attacks by Israeli forces in several years of hits on Iranian targets in Syria.
Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, said Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Al Quds force, working with allied Shiite militias, had been planning to send a number of explosives-laden attack drones into Israel.
On Twitter, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the attack by Israeli warplanes a “major operational effort.”
Syrian state TV said the country’s air defenses had responded to “hostile” targets over Damascus and shot down incoming missiles before they reached their targets.
In recent days, US officials have said that Israeli strikes have also hit Iranian targets in Iraq.