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The majority of the child deaths – 71 percent of the 10,586 for which causes were recorded – were caused by explosive weapons, according to the report (PDF), with 60 percent caused by “shelling,” 26.6 percent caused by bombs dropped from the air and 13.3 percent due to artillery fire, including from tanks.
Small arms fire from guns and rifles accounted for 2,806, or 26.5 percent, of the children killed, with 764 children who were executed and 398 killed by fire from a sniper. And among those children who were executed, 112 were tortured, including some infants.
A chemical weapons attack in Ghouta, an area in the suburbs of Damascus, killed 128 children on Aug. 21, 2013.
Older children were targeted by attacks more often than younger ones, the researchers found, and boys were killed more often than girls, at a ratio of around two to one – a ratio that increased to four to one between the ages of 13 and 17 years old. Boys were executed nearly three times as often as girls, and were killed by sniper fire four times as often.
“Although it is possible that older boys face greater risk of death by spending more time outdoors during times of conflict than younger children and girls,” the authors wrote, “the much higher proportions in which they are shot suggests that this is not solely an environmental effect. Moreover, it is difficult to see how this many children of any age or gender could be killed purely in small-arms ‘crossfire,’ from which it is at least possible to take cover and hide.”
In terms of locations of child deaths in the war-torn nation, the highest number took place in Aleppo, where 2,223 children were killed. But in terms of size, the worst-affected area was Daraa, where 1,134 – or around one in every 408 children – were killed.
“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.”
They suggest in the report that combatants receive training in order to avoid children and civilians in the crossfire.
And, they added, "one important area not covered in this report are children who survived blast wounds, and very likely outnumber those killed.”
The death toll in Syria topped 100,000 people in July, and more than 2 million people have fled the country since fighting began between rebel fighters and the forces of President Bashar al-Assad.
The United Nations expects another 2 million Syrians to become refugees in 2014, and said more than 2.25 million Syrians to be displaced within the country’s borders.