A report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) Tuesday reveals how the Assad regime used highly powerful bombs to target a high school in the rebel-controlled city of Raqga.
The report said evidence from the scene of the bombing, which took place on Sunday, points towards the use of fuel-air explosive bombs, which inflict massive damage over a wide area, and are "therefore prone to indiscriminate impact in populated areas."
Up to 16 people were killed in the attack, most of whom were schoolchildren, with scores more wounded. Videos of the aftermath showed victims torn to shreds, their bodies hurled aside by the massive force of the blast.
"Their body parts were scattered all over the place," recounted one witness, "They were just shreds, not full bodies, just pieces: the hand one place, the other body parts somewhere else. One head was severed from the body. One of them had the intestines coming out. Their books and notebooks were all over the place."
The use of such powerful "conventional" weapons by the Syrian Air Force shows how regime forces are able to continue to inflict massive casualties on the civilians in rebel-held areas, even without the use of chemical weapons.
“While the world tries to bring Syria’s chemical weapons under control, government forces are killing civilians with other extremely powerful weapons,” said Priyanka Motaparthy, Middle East child rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Even students on their first day of school are not safe.”
Despite the fact that Raqqa has been under rebel control for some time now, the report cites evidence that there were no military targets near the school itself.
"Satellite imagery taken on September 26 [just 2 days before the bombing - ed.] shows that the school is surrounded by fields and a few small houses, with no visible signs of military structures or activity. That increases the likelihood that the government targeted the school itself," Human Rights Watch said.
HRW slammed the attack as a "war crime" and warned that - with one in five schools in Syria not functioning due to he ongoing civil war - the country's children face a dangerous and uncertain future.
“The Raqqa bombing is the latest in a long string of government attacks that hit schools and killed students,” Motaparthy added.
“These attacks have cost many children their lives, and have taught others that they risk death by going to school.”