When a group of ISIS militia knocked on the door of one Iraqi family in the captured city of Mosul, the father knew he did not have the cash to pay the protection money they demanded.
The men strong-armed their way into the house, and forced the father and his son to watch as they raped both the mother and the young daughter. According to a War Child report, the trauma was too much for the father and the brother to take. They committed suicide on that same day. The mother and daughter have vanished without a trace. The victims’ neighbours, a family who were interviewed by War Child staff, fled to Erbil fearing more attacks.
It is just one disturbing account told to human rights charities, who today warned of shocking incidents of rape and violence, including the recruitment of child soldiers across the war-torn Middle East, as insurgents pillage Iraq and Syria.
An Iraqi boy holds a weapon as he takes part in a gathering by Shiite tribesman to show their willingness to join Iraqi security forces in the fight against Jihadist militants
And the horrors do not end there. Just a few hundred miles away in Gaza, rockets fired by militants towards Israel accidentally hit the Palestinian capital, with children once again the victims of the carnage.
But Western donors are not stepping up the plate, it has been warned. War Child today released shocking testimonies of family rape and suicide, but said humanitarian funding for keeping children safe remains 93% unmet by donors.
The risk of sexual violence for children is extremely high and there are deep concerns over humanitarian access being denied and not reaching the most vulnerable children, the charity said.
Between the 5th and 22nd June 2014, the death toll in Iraq has reached an average of at least 59 deaths per day.
Dan Collison, War Child’s Director of Programmes, said: “We are seeing a swift deterioration in security on the ground and sense it is going to get worse and worse. The stories emerging from the internally displaced are horrifying and these incidents are only beginning to come to light - we dread to think what traumas children are going through as we speak”.
As well as attacking women and children, ISIS is aggressively recruiting child soldiers, it has been reported. On the other side of the conflict, Baghdadi children have been seen in pictures joining recruitment drives to fight the jihadists.
As ISIS spreads its sphere of influence across Iraq from Syria, government forces are battering families in the rebel-held Syrian city of Aleppo.
A Syrian girl with her face covered in blood walks away from the site of a reported barrel-bomb attack by Syrian government forces in the northern city of Aleppo
This is the face of one of the children now unable to flee the war-torn city because of the bombardment. At least 59 people, including five children, were killed during operations across Syria on Tuesday, reportedly by forces loyal to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Barrel bombs have killed 19 people in the capital, Damascus, 16 in Aleppo, and a dozen in Homs and Deiruz Zo, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights.
Child soldiers are fighting there too, according to Zama Coursen-Neff, from the Children's Rights Division of Human Rights Watch. She said: "Extremist groups, have aggressively targeted children and enticed them to join.
"It is bad enough that the Syrian government is dropping bombs on children. Armed opposition groups in Syria should not in turn be sending children into harms way."
Just a few hundred miles away in the heart of the Middle East's most long-running conflict, tensions are close to boiling point in the wake of the breakdown of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, and the new unity pact between the West Bank's ruling Fatah party, and Gaza's Hamas.
Yet more heart-breaking images have emerged from this corner of the region, as a mother mourns over the lifeless body of her three-year-old daughter during her funeral at their home in Gaza City.
A mother mourns over the lifeless body of her three-year-old daughter during her funeral in Gaza City
A rocket fired by Palestinian militants toward Israel exploded in the northern Gaza Strip early Wednesday, killing the girl and wounding three other people, a medical official said. Ashraf al-Kidra said it was not clear whether the rocket was misfired, or whether an Israeli rocket-defense system intercepted it and caused it to explode over Palestinian territory.
Israel has accused Hamas militants, who control Gaza, of being behind the apparent abduction of three Israeli teenagers. Hamas has praised the kidnapping, but said it does not know who was behind it.
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