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Unicef says about 850 children 'in immediate risk' in Ghwayran prison
Assault on the Ghwayran prison in the northern city of Hasakeh is one of ISIS’s most significant since its 'caliphate' was declared defeated in Syria nearly three years ago/Facebook page

The Straits Times reported according to Reuters, the United Nations children's agency Unicef said on Tuesday (Jan 25), fears are growing for hundreds of children in a Syrian prison seized by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) inmates, after six days of clashes with Kurdish-led fighters seeking to regain control of the facility.

About 850 children are caught in the crossfire as Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) aided by US troops attempt to storm the prison in Hasaka city after it was seized by militants last Thursday, leaving dozens dead.

Ms Juliette Touma, Unicef's Middle East and North Africa regional advocacy and communications head, told Reuters: "Every day counts. It's very hard to even imagine what atrocities these children are witnessing."

She said: "The children's lives are in immediate risk."

Dozens of ISIS fighters escaped into the surrounding area in last Thursday's attack, which included the detonation of a car bomb near the prison gates, while other inmates took over part of the facility.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic forces say that a new insurgence and attempted escape by Daesh terrorists detained in Ghwayran prison in Al-Hasaka in conjunction with an explosion of a car bomb/Facebook page
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic forces say that a new insurgence and attempted escape by Daesh terrorists detained in Ghwayran prison in Al-Hasaka in conjunction with an explosion of a car bomb/Facebook page

The SDF says the death tally now stands at around 200 inmates and 27 of its fighters, while more than 550 militants have surrendered. Clashes continue with militants still holed up in some buildings.

Unicef said fighting must end immediately to allow safe passage for the 850 minors, some as young as 12. The UN children's agency could not verify if any of the children were among the casualties cited by the SDF.

Ghwayran prison: Fighting rages for third day between ISIS and Kurdish forces

The children were detained during US-backed campaigns that finally drove ISIS from its last territorial enclave in Syria in 2019.

United States Human Rights Watch and other rights groups have long criticised the Kurdish-led forces who control large swathes of north-east Syria for holding children in overcrowded, makeshift prisons in inhumane conditions.

The Hasaka prison is the largest of several where the SDF holds thousands without charges or trial and includes civilians who resist forced conscription.

Daesh attacks Ghwayran prison in Syria and frees extremists

The mass detentions in recent years have fuelled growing resentment by Arab tribal members who accuse the Kurdish forces of racial discrimination, a charge denied by the Kurdish-led forces that rule their areas.

The fighting has also forced more than 45,000 civilians, mostly women and children, to flee from their homes in districts near the prison.

Ms Touma added: "These families fled in such a hurry with almost nothing on them in harsh winter weather. Many have already been displaced and fled violence from other parts of Syria."

Source: straitstimes