Fears are growing for hundreds of children in a Syrian prison seized by Daesh terror group inmates, after six days of clashes with US-backed YPG terrorists seeking to regain control of the facility, the United Nations children's agency has said.
"Every day counts. It's very hard to even imagine what atrocities these children are witnessing," Juliette Touma, UNICEF's Middle East and North Africa regional advocacy and communications head, told Reuters news agency on Tuesday.
"The children's lives are at immediate risk," Touma said.
About 850 children are caught in the crossfire as YPG militants aided by US troops attempt to storm the prison in Hasaka city after it was seized by Daesh terrorists last Thursday, leaving dozens dead.
YPG is the Syrian branch of PKK terrorist organisation that has attacked Turkey for almost 40 years and forms the backbone of Washington-allied so-called Syrian Democratic Forces or SDF.
Dozens of Daesh members escaped into the surrounding area in the attack, which included detonating a car bomb near the prison gates, while other inmates took over part of the facility.
UN seeks safe passage for civilians
YPG terrorists say the death tally now stands at around 200 inmates and 27 of its militants, while over 550 Daesh members have surrendered. Clashes continue in some buildings.
The UN's children's agency said fighting must end immediately to allow safe passage for the 850 minors, some as young as 12. UNICEF could not verify if any of the children were among the casualties cited by the YPG.
The children were detained during US-backed campaigns that finally drove Daesh from its last territorial enclave in Syria in 2019.
US Human Rights Watch and other rights groups have long criticised the YPG who control large swathes of northeast Syria for holding children in overcrowded, makeshift prisons in inhumane conditions.
Growing resentment against YPG
The Hasaka prison is the largest of several where the YPG holds thousands without charges or trial and includes civilians who resist forced conscription.
The mass detentions in recent years have fuelled growing resentment by Arab tribal members who accuse the YPG militants of racial discrimination.
The fighting has also forced over 45,000 civilians, mostly women and children, to flee from their homes in districts near the prison.
"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," Touma added.