"Syria's children, like children anywhere else in the world, deserve the chance to learn and play without running the risk of being killed in their classrooms."
By Lauren McCauley, Common Dreams
Twenty-two children and six teachers were killed after a school in Idlib, Syria was bombed on Wednesday, which aid groups are saying may be the deadliest attack on a school since the conflict began.
"This is a tragedy. It is an outrage. And if deliberate, it is a war crime," said Anthony Lake, executive director of the United Nations children's agency UNICEF, of the attack on the school compound.
"This latest atrocity may be the deadliest attack on a school since the war began more than five years ago," he continued. "Children lost forever to their families...teachers lost forever to their students...one more scar on Syria's future."
According to BBC:
The attack on Haas, about 75km (46 miles) south-west of Aleppo, appears to have been intense and flattened a number of buildings, reports the BBC's James Longman in Beirut.
Children were reportedly gathered around an entrance when it was hit, at about 11:30 local time (08:30 GMT). They had been allowed to leave classes early because of the raids elsewhere in the village.
Activists shared photographs of dead bodies—many of them children—on the floor of a makeshift treatment center.
Nick Finney, North-West Syria country director with Save the Children, said his organization is "appalled" by the bombing. "There is no excuse for bombing a school or other civilian infrastructure like hospitals, which should be known to the warring parties, and yet we see it happening time and again in Syria," he said.
Finney estimates that of the 60 schools supported by Save the Children in the region, "44 have been affected by bombing this year alone," with at least 20 students and teachers killed or injured prior to the most recent bombing.
"Syria's children, like children anywhere else in the world, deserve the chance to learn and play without running the risk of being killed in their classrooms," he continued. "We want to see an end to attacks on schools and accountability for anyone who bombs or occupies a school—these attacks constitute a potential war crime and should be subject to an international investigation."
At this point, it remains unclear who is responsible for the attack.
Despite accusations from the U.K.-based monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Russia has denied involvement. "Everyone has accused Russia and Syrian forces of the attack, saying directly that it was a bombardment carried out by Russia and Syria. This is a lie. Russia has nothing to do with this dreadful attack," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement.
As the Associated Press points out, Idlib has withstood bombings from all parties in the conflict.
"Idlib is the main Syrian opposition stronghold, though radical militant groups also have a large presence there," AP reports. "It has regularly been hit by Syrian and Russian warplanes as well as the U.S.-led coalition targeting Islamic State militants. An activist at the scene said as many as 10 airstrikes were believed to have hit the residential area Wednesday."
Concern over the civilian carnage in Syria has, as Common Dreams previously reported, largely fueled a bipartisan call for more U.S. military engagement, rather than stronger efforts to forge a peaceful, diplomatic solution.
In fact, Amnesty International put out a statement Wednesday saying that airstrikes conducted by the U.S.-led coalition have killed an estimated 300 Syrian civilians over two years.
As UNICEF's Lake asked Wednesday, "When will the world's revulsion at such barbarity be matched by insistence that this must stop?"