Tuesday, March 20, 2018 10:03:23 AM
Al Jazeera News :
On a winter morning in January, Majed, 13, and his friend Omar, 11, were heading to a public park near their homes in eastern Aleppo to play and ride their bikes.
It was only two weeks since the December ceasefire began, and the lull in fighting allowed the two friends and many children in the neighbourhood to venture outside.
On their way to the park, they spotted a "strange" metal object buried in the sand.
"It looked like a soda can. I stepped on it, and it exploded," Majed recalled.
"I was thrown in the air, but I never lost consciousness," he said. "I was worried about Omar, I didn't know how to help."
People rushed to the scene to find Majed and Omar severely wounded.
Shrapnel tore through Majed's face and body, causing some of his intestines to be removed. But he was lucky that his foot was not amputated.
"I was so cold and in pain," he said.
Majed's friend Omar did not make it to the hospital. He died inside the taxi five minutes after two men rescued them.
Majed and Omar's story is told in a UNICEF report published on Monday. Despite an ongoing ceasefire, deadly incidents - such as those experienced by the boys - continue, highlighting what UNICEF said was the "highest on record" level of "grave violations against children" in Syria since the war began in 2011.
"Verified instances of killing, maiming and recruitment of children increased sharply last year in a drastic escalation of violence across the country," the report said.
Majed recalls the explosion that killed his friend Omar: "
According to the report, at least 652 children were killed in the last year, making 2016 the worst year for Syria's children since verification of child casualties began in 2014.
Of that number, 255 children were killed in or near a school in 2016, UNICEF said.
The number of child fatalities in 2016 was at least 20 percent higher than in 2015. At least 647 children were also reported injured, including Majed.
There were also at least 338 attacks against hospitals and medical personnel.
In one incident in November, Al Jazeera captured the moment an air raid hit a children's hospital in eastern Aleppo, forcing medical staff to evacuate patients, including several newborn babies still in incubators.
"The depth of suffering is unprecedented," UNICEF Regional Director Geert Cappelaere said in a statement.
"Millions of children in Syria come under attack on a daily basis, their lives turned upside down. Each and every child is scarred for life with horrific consequences on their health, well-being and future."
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