BoDemonstration against Assad
BoDemonstration against AssadReuters

Syrian President Bashar Assad’s armed forces kill and sexually attack children and use them as human shields, the United Nations charged Monday.

As daily reports continue to recount the wholesale bombing and killing of dozens of civilians, the United Nations still is relying on diplomatic pressure to end the brutality that has claimed more than 15,000 lives, wounded countless others and wrecked the Syrian economy.

"In almost all recorded cases, children were among the victims of military operations by government forces, including the Syrian armed forces, the intelligence forces and the shabiha militia, in their ongoing conflict with the opposition, including the Free Syrian Army," the U.N. stated in its annual report on children and armed conflict.

A list of governments and armed groups that abuse children grew last year from 48 to 52, including 32 "persistent perpetrators" and four new ones in Syria, Sudan and Yemen.

A former Syrian soldier was quoted in the report as saying that last December, a commander ordered his troops to shoot at a demonstration, in which three young girls under the age of 13 were killed.

Another source reported that he saw five children gunned down at a school.

Soldiers also took young boys and girls from their homes and used them as humans shields, “placing them in front of the windows of buses carrying military personnel into the raid” on a village.

The United Nations report included reports from children who said they were tortured with electric cables.

Human rights groups have estimated that approximately 1,200 children have been killed in the Syrian uprising that began more than 14 months ago.

The international community has rejected military interference, one of the reasons being fears of a proxy war that could pit Russia and China against U.S.-led NATO forces.

The lack of a unified opposition and a rebel leader also has left doubts about that will happen “the day after” if and when Assad falls from power.