Syria: UN official urges protection of children following reports of surge in casualties

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Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. UN Photo/P. Filgueiras

15 January 2013 ? A top United Nations official today condemned the reportedly high number of casualties of children in and around the Syrian capital of Damascus, and called on all parties to immediately stop targeting civilian areas.

?The bloodshed in Syria continues and children pay a very high price in the ongoing fighting,? said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui.

?All parties must immediately refrain from targeting civilian areas and take all necessary precautions to protect girls and boys.?

Her office stated in a news release that more than 20 children were killed and numerous more injured in the past days due to airstrikes and other indiscriminate attacks on populated areas.

Ms. Zerrougui expressed her concern about today?s explosions at the University of Aleppo, which, according to media reports, claimed the lives of some 80 civilians, and reminded all parties that the disproportionate and indiscriminate killing of children in the course of military operations can amount to war crimes.

In a trip to Syria last month, Ms. Zerrougui engaged with State authorities and the armed opposition to better protect children. During her visit, the Syrian Government committed to cooperate with the UN in the monitoring of violations against children.

More than 60,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria and hundreds of thousands more have been displaced since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in early 2011. Recent months have witnessed an escalation in the conflict, which is now in its 23rd month and has left more than 2.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

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