Video captures Syria kids narrowly avoiding shell blast as they talk about life under constant mortar fire

Nobody has suffered more unjustly in Syria's civil war than the country's children. Almost three years of fighting between President Bashar Assad's forces and rebel fighters have left at least 11,000 of them dead, according to a recent study.

Syria's children have allegedly been used as human shields, maimed and tortured and left to starve as their country implodes around them.

In those surroundings, opposition activists in the eastern Damascus suburb of Jobar stopped a bunch of local kids playing in the streets to ask them what it was like growing up under the near constant barrage of mortar fire which has defined the war.

The undated video clip, uploaded Monday to YouTube, is shocking, first, for the way in which the children seem to have accepted and adapted to their circumstances. They appear unafraid, unfazed even, as their friends ride around on bikes behind them and the sound of mortars slamming into the residential area echoes in the distance.

"We used to be scared," one boy tells his interviewer, "but we got used to all this in the end."

Another boy tells the activists about seeing a man who had been beheaded, and another who had lost his hands.

As a young girl among the children is about to recount something her father had told her, a loud explosion is heard. The camera is jolted and veers around, but a cloud of dust is seen rising nearby as a couple of the boys scurry away from the scene of the likely mortar impact.

The video is edited and resumes inside a building where all the children have regrouped. They all survived.

"Thank god you're all safe," one of the activists says.

All the children are smiling and seem giddy. One of the activists asks a boy in a dusty baseball cap how he knew to dive to the ground when the blast hit.

"What do you mean?" asks the boy. "I just knew how to do it by myself."

CBS News cannot independently verify the video posted online from Jobar. While the regime has pounded the eastern suburbs of Damascus with artillery fire -- an inherently indiscriminate form of weaponry to use in such a built-up area -- it is also impossible to say with any certainty who fired the shell that blew up near the children on the video.

In spite of an announcement Monday that a new round of international peace talks are to kick off on Jan. 22 in Geneva, aimed at finding a political solution to the Syrian crisis, there's no reason yet to hope the shells are about to stop falling in Jobar.

  • Tucker Reals

    Tucker Reals is the CBSNews.com foreign editor, based at the CBS News London bureau.

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