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Bombings and airstrikes have had a disproportionate impact on Syria's children, a factor that is likely driving the exodus of migrants overwhelming Europe and should serve as evidence for banning such attacks in populated areas, according to a study published Tuesday in a British medical journal.
In a review of more than 78,000 violent civilian deaths in Syria from March 2011 to last January, researchers found that a quarter of the victims were women and children, the journal, BMJ, reported.
But when the researchers broke those figures down by weapon types, it found that children were more likely than adults to be killed in air bombardments, shells and ground-level explosives.
"The government and rebel factions in Syria typically claim that the targets of their bombs and shells are enemy combatant strongholds, but our findings indicate that for Syrian children these are the weapons most likely to cause death," the researchers, led by Debarati Guha-Sapir at the Universite Catholique de Louvain in Belgium, wrote.
Women were the second most likely group to die in those types of explosions, the researchers said.
Men were by far the most common victims, but they mostly died in shootings and executions, the researchers found.
The findings show that combatants in Syria's civil war are disregarding a resolution adopted by the United Nations Security Council in February 2014 that called for the end of attacks against civilians.
"Given the mortality burden of weapons on children and women in Syria, active measures to stem the flow of heavy armaments to all sides in the Syrian conflict are a possible way to cease hostilities," the researchers wrote.