Bombs, shells especially deadly for women, children in Syrian war: research

Tue Sep 29, 2015 7:04pm EDT
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By Joseph D'Urso

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The use of explosives like barrel bombs and artillery shells in populated areas of Syria, a common feature of the four-year-old conflict, has had a disproportionately lethal effect on women and children, according to research published on Tuesday.

The Syrian crisis began with anti-government street protests in March 2011 and has since descended into civil war, forcing half the population from their homes and killing a quarter of a million people.

Many of those killed have been civilians, victims of barrel bombs, artillery shells and poison gas attacks.

Researchers from Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium looked at almost 80,000 civilian deaths in Syria between March 2011 and January 2015.

The vast majority of the deaths analyzed took place in areas controlled by rebel groups, around a quarter of the dead were women and children and the rest men.

Of this sample, while men were most likely to be killed in shootings or executions, women and children were more likely to die from air bombardments, shells or ground-level explosives such as car bombs, according to the research published by the British Medical Journal on Tuesday.

This differs from previous conflicts for which figures are available such as the 1992-5 Croatian war, in which the vast majority of children who died were killed by firearms, and female deaths were rare, the report said.

The findings "should give pause to anyone who thinks there can be a safe hiding place for women and children when high explosives are being used in populated areas," said Hamir Dardagan, co-director of Every Casualty Worldwide, a campaign group.   Continued...

Civilians walk on rubble as they inspect a site hit by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the old city of Aleppo, Syria July 12, 2015. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail