No safety even undergound for Aleppo schoolchildren because of bunker-busting bombs

Children's charity calls for the use of 'earthquake bombs' to be classed as a potential war crime.
A child is carried away from the rubble of building destroyed by barrel bombs in the Bab Al Nairab district of Aleppo on August 27, 2016, when nearly 100 children were killed in a single week.  Photo: Aleppo Media Center via AP
A child is carried away from the rubble of building destroyed by barrel bombs in the Bab Al Nairab district of Aleppo on August 27, 2016, when nearly 100 children were killed in a single week. Photo: Aleppo Media Center via AP

BEIRUT // Bunker-busting bombs are putting children in so much danger in Aleppo that they will not be able to return to underground schools when classes resume this weekend.

Save the Children supports 13 schools in the northern battleground city, including eight underground but the charity said the use of the “earthquake bombs” which burrow four to five metres into the ground before exploding meant even underground schools were unsafe. The charity is now calling for the use of such bombs to be classed as a potential war crime.

“Schools in eastern Aleppo were due to reopen for the new school year tomorrow, but as the city continues to suffer a ferocious assault they will remain closed, depriving almost 100,000 school-age children of an education, while they continue in fear for their lives,” said a statement from the charity.

The United States has accused Russia of using “incendiary bunker-busting bombs” in a week-long aerial assault on the city’s rebel-held east but the Kremlin said it would press on with its bombing campaign, blaming the surge in violence on Washington’s failure to control rebels in Aleppo. Russia, which supports the regime of Syrian president Bashar Al Assad, insists Syrian forces were battling “terrorists”.

The bunker-busting bombs are used to penetrate hardened targets such as underground military headquarters, leaving victims entombed in rubble.

“Parents are afraid to send their children to school because everything is targeted,” said a school principal in eastern Aleppo, who was quoted by Save The Children and identified only as Omar. “The students are also suffering on all levels, you see them barely walking, dragging themselves, which makes them unable to focus on the learning and studying. Regarding the bunker buster bombs, of course only hearing the sound creates a state of terror and panic that is not like anything else. “The immense power of destruction is the most important. It can destroy underground shelters and basements and the buildings get totally destroyed, not just partially.”

Save the Children said more than 300 children have been killed or wounded in eastern Aleppo in the past five days.

“We are not going to school because the aeroplanes bomb any gathering,” said 12-year-old Amjad. “When the plane comes we sit on the floor, afraid that things might fall above us. One of my friends died in the bombing — he was my best friend. I love to go to school to study and I wish I could become a civil engineer to rebuild the houses that were destroyed.”

Even before the latest escalation, school enrolments in Aleppo had fallen to as low as six per cent. “We’re now more likely to see children being pulled from the rubble or treated on the floor of a hospital than sat at a school desk,” said Nick Finney, head of Save the Children for north-west Syria. “Children deserve the right to play, to learn, to be children. The use of bunker busting bombs means there is literally nowhere we can keep children safe”

In Geneva, the World Health Organisation said eastern Aleppo is too dangerous for outside medical personnel. Emergency risk director Dr. Rick Brennansaid there were now fewer than 30 “beyond heroic” doctors serving 250,000 people in the rebel-held part of the city and appealed for permission to evacuate the sick and injured. He said 846 people have been wounded, including 261 children, in the last couple of weeks.

* Agence France Presse

Published: September 30, 2016 04:00 AM

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