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Why Syrian kids are holding pictures of Pokemon

Five years of endless imagery of children caught, and killed, in the warzone that is Syria have failed to inspire any resolution to the crisis by the international community.

So a tech-savvy mind working with the U.S.-backed rebels in Syria's convoluted civil war decided it was worth adding something more palatable to the outside world to those difficult-to-look at images: Pokemon.

Video and photos distributed by the Syrian National Coalition show young children holding papers with images of Pokemon and a written message, usually a plea for the reader to "save me." Some of images are just sad looking Pokemon, sitting amid rubble, with a similar "save me" message.

The kids holding the signs have likely never seen a Pokemon before, but the hope is surely that people will look beyond the cartoon and see the face of a desperate child behind it.

Syrian town's starvation shows latest tragedy in civil war

According to the media office of the Revolutionary Forces of Syria, which provided the material, the kids are among thousands trapped in rebel-held towns and neighborhoods -- many just outside the capital city -- that have been cut off to virtually all supplies for months.

The United Nations said earlier this year that an estimated 4.5 million people in Syria are living in besieged or in hard-to-reach areas, with civilians prevented from leaving and with little to no access to food, medicine or other essentials.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called the deliberate starvation of civilians a "war crime," and in January he urged both the Syrian government and rebels to end the sieges.

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Children have suffered immensely in Syria. The Syrian regime of Bashar Assad has favoured indiscriminate weapons like barrel bombs in rebel territory, and hospitals and schools have been hit in direct airstrikes for months.

Not just Assad, but the Russian and even U.S.-allied forces have been accused of atrocities involving children.

The war is grinding on. The U.S. and Russia, the two superpowers whose backing of opposite sides in the war has led to several limited and eventually fruitless efforts at political reconciliation, are no closer to an agreement.

Speaking Friday in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov compared the policy of America and its European allies in Syria to that of a "bull in a China shop." He made it clear Russia was not about to drop its vital backing of Syria's dictator.

So the war will continue to grind on. But the introduction of the suddenly-ubiquitous Pokemon characters is a deft effort to get an easily distracted world to pay attention, for at least a little while.

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