March 13 (UPI) -- At least 652 children died in Syria's civil war in 2016, more than in any of the prior five years and a 20 percent increase over 2015, UNICEF reported Monday.
The United Nations' children's humanitarian agency said its figures include only verifiable deaths, indicating the actual number of child deaths could be higher. UNICEF reported 255 of the deaths came at or near a school and that about 850 children were recruited to fight in the civil war.
"The most vulnerable among Syria's children are 2.8 million in hard-to-reach areas, including 280,000 living under siege where civilian movement, the flow of essential supplies and lifesaving humanitarian aid is heavily restricted. In some cases medical supplies have been removed from convoys, denying treatment to civilians, which is a violation of international humanitarian law," the 12-page report said.
The civil war between rebels and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime began six years ago this week with a protest to demand the release of teenagers writing anti-government graffiti on a wall.
Six million children are now relying on some sort of humanitarian aid. The report demanded a political solution to the civil war, an end to violence against Syrian children, access to all children in need, help for refugee host nations and continued financial support for UNICEF, which spent $1.4 billion in Syria and surrounding nations in 2016.