10 children killed by cluster bombs in Damascus playground


A government jet has dropped cluster bombs over a playground in Damascus, leaving 10 children dead and others wounded, Syrian activists have reported.

Separately activists said war planes bombed a rebel headquarters near the Turkish border on Monday but appeared to miss their target.

On Sunday a MiG fighter jet bombed the village of Deir al-Asafir that lies east of the capital, releasing cluster bomblets that exploded in a yard where children had been playing.

“Families had left their homes and taken shelter in the school because there has been heavy fighting in the village over the past week. This is why there were many children in one place,” said an activist calling herself Alexia Jade, speaking from Damascus.

“There was a break in the fighting and the children were outside playing their games. The parents were trying to give them a sense of normality.”

Video footage said to have been captured after the attack on Sunday showed the bloodied and lifeless bodies of little children Mohammad Al-Ham, and Shahd Al-Ham, one wearing a purple tracksuit, the other a red jumper, lying on the ground.

A separate video shows dead and wounded children lying in a heap in the back of a car. Panicked adults carry the children into a makeshift field hospital, running past a girl who sits crying on the floor in a dirtied lilac dress with blood running from a head wound. A mother, apparently inside the clinic, stands over her dead daughters body, her arms lifted to the sky in shock.

“None of those killed was older than 15 years old,” Abu Kassem, an activist in Deir al-Asafir told Reuters.

Up to 10 children are thought to have died in the attack. Further footage of the playground attack showed what appeared to be cluster bomblets on the ground.

Two cluster bombs were dropped on the village, activists said. One man told Reuters news agency that 70 bomblets had been found.

An activist in Damascus told the Daily Telegraph that the village had been “attacked” several times before and that this incident was not the first time that cluster bombs had been dropped on the town.

“That is why the families had moved into the school. Almost half of the village has been completely destroyed,” said Ms Jade.

There have been increasingly frequent allegations that the Syrianairforce is deploying cluster bombs in the fight against the insurgency. Last month Human Rights Watch said there had been an increase in online video reports purporting to show evidence of cluster bombs being dropped in the conflict, especially around the town of Maarat al-Numan.

Cluster munitions are banned under humanitarian law and in most countries across the world. The bombs release smaller ‘bomblets’ that spread across a wide area. Many don’t detonate on impact, “continuing to maim and kill long after the conflict has ended,” said Kimberly Brown, Conflict Advisor 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. We are concerned for all the children who can be affected.”

The Syrian government said the military did not have such weapons and dismissed the allegations as “baseless”.