Study: More than 11,000 children killed in Syrian war

Syria's bloody civil war has claimed the lives of more than 11,000 children, the vast majority killed by bombs or shells in their own neighborhoods, according to a report released Sunday.

The report, Stolen Futures: The Hidden Toll of Child Casualties in Syria, was released by the Oxford Research Group, an independent think tank based in Britain. It used figures provided by Syrian civil society groups that have been recording casualties.

The study found that from the start of the conflict in March 2011 through the month of August 2013, a total of 11,420 children age 17 or under had been killed, out of 113,735 civilians and combatants.

Of the child deaths, boys outnumbered girls more than 2 to 1 overall. The highest number of child deaths occurred in the governorate of Aleppo, where 2,223 were reported killed.

"What is most disturbing about the findings of this report is not only the sheer numbers of children killed in this conflict, but the way they are being killed," said co-author Hana Salama. "Bombed in their homes, in their communities, during day-to-day activities such as waiting in bread lines or attending school; shot by bullets in crossfire, targeted by snipers, summarily executed, even gassed and tortured."

The primary cause of death for children was explosives, which killed 7,557 youngsters. Small-arms fire killed 2,806 kids. These included 764 cases of summary execution and 389 cases in which children were specifically targeted by sniper fire, the report said.

Another 128 children died Aug. 21 in chemical attacks in Ghouta, to the east of Damascus, the report said.

Teenage boys, ages 13 to 17, were the most frequent victims of targeted killings such as those involving sniper fire, execution or torture. But the report found at least 112 cases in which children – including some infants -- were tortured and killed.

"This study shows why explosive weapons should never be used where children live and play, how older children quickly become targets in a war and even the youngest suffer its worst abuses," said co-author Hamit Dardagan. "This grim and terrible record also shows why a sustainable peace, not more bombs and bullets, is the only way to guarantee the safety of children."