Syrian refugees say Assad's soldiers are forcing women and children to march in front of advancing tanks to prevent rebels from opening fire. International law forbids the use of human shields.
Syrian security forces have started using civilians as human shields to prevent attacks by Syrian rebels, according to refugees. The tactic appears to have dissuaded at least some rebels from opening fire, but a prominent human rights group has pointed to it as yet another war crime committed by President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
Refugees fleeing Syria's northern Idlib province gave the Monitor detailed eyewitness accounts of numerous human shield incidents – many involving women and young children – in recent weeks. They described seeing Syrian soldiers forcing children to march in front of their tanks as government forces advanced into rebel strongholds.
In one instance, when loyalists advanced on the hamlet of Shaturiya, a few miles from Janudieh, a construction worker who had fled to a nearby hilltop saw the troops putting small groups of women and children in front of the approaching tanks.
His son, a 13-year-old who stayed behind in the village when his father fled, was one of those forced to serve as a human shield, according to both of them. The son, slender-framed and matter-of-fact, said he was forced to stand in front of the tanks in the village "for almost six hours, until around midday, without touching food and water."
When the Army left town, the father came back, took his wife and children and went directly for the border. The family now lives in the Turkish refugee camp of Yayladağı. They are among the record 24,000 Syrians who have taken refuge in Turkey, raising the regional stakes for a solution to the Syria violence.
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