As part of the effort to document the egregious and, in the case of our legal analysis section, likely unlawful nature of school attacks in Syria, Save Syrian Schools selected two sets of case studies or specific attacks to focus on.
As part of the discussion of the applicable legal framework, our report presents a selection of seven emblematic cases, aiming to draw attention to particular features of and patterns in the violations that have been committed against children and schools in Syria, and show how they could constitute serious violations of international humanitarian law.
The following cases each highlight grave breaches of obligations for the protection of children, civilians, and civilian objects during armed conflict, including under international humanitarian, criminal, and human rights law, as well as long-established customary norms, including those contained in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977.
The proportion of child deaths has steadily increased since the beginning of the war, from 8.9% of all civilian deaths in 2011 to an alarming 23.3% in 2016. In total, this means around 17,401 children have been killed through direct violence.
In 2016, Al-Haas, in the southern Idlib Governorate, was considered safer than many localities in Syria due to the absence of armed groups. For that reason, some 10,000 internally displaced people—approximately one third of the Haas population—settled there, as the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria reported. But on 26 October 2016, an aerial bombing on a complex of five schools killed approximately 38 civilians including at least 16 children. It was one of the deadliest attacks on schools reported at the time.
The small town of Ain Jara is located in the countryside about 10 miles northwest of Aleppo. On the morning of January 11, 2016, it suffered dozens of attacks on three schools.
The schools were bombarded in the morning while students were taking their trimestral exams. Both Violations Documentation Center (VDC) and the Syrian Institute for Justice (SIJ) recorded 20 civilians killed (19 children and 1 teacher) in connection with the airstrikes, though others recorded higher casualties of up to 35, including 17 children. Some news reports indicate that this number included several children from displaced families who were attending school there. Nearby homes were affected as well.
Ain Jalout Primary School is located in the eastern al-Ansari neighborhood in Aleppo, which has suffered the bulk of losses in the Syrian conflict.
On April 30, 2014, the school was filled with parents and children who had gathered for an exhibition of children’s artwork. The project, entitled An Imprint of Hope, depicted the children’s personal experiences of war.
While the children were preparing to display their work, the Syrian government carried out an attack against Ain Jalout Primary School. As many as 35 people died in the attacks, including 33 children. Approximately 40 other civilians were severely injured.