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A child's killing freeze-frames Syria's tragedy

By Joe Sterling and Arwa Damon, CNN
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Syrian child caught in crossfire
  • The girl was killed in Latakia, activists say
  • She and her parents were trying to leave the city, activists say
  • Many children have been victims of the Syrian conflict

(CNN) -- One video showed the tiny face of the slain girl wrapped in a shroud.

Someone pulled back a bandage to show her bloodied right eye. Her mouth was frozen, slightly ajar. Her vacant face and lifeless head conjured the image of an alabaster bust.

Another more gruesome video showed the girl before she was cleaned for burial. She lay sprawled on a pavement, bloodied and disheveled, like a crime victim caught in a tabloid snapshot.

The images surfaced Sunday and Monday in Syria, where more than 2,000 people have died in five months of bloody conflict between security forces and anti-government demonstrators.

The victim was O'laa Jablawi, a 2 1/2-year-old girl from the besieged port city of Latakia, shot in the eye and killed when she and her parents attempted to flee the besieged city on Sunday in a car that came under fire, activists said.

Violence in Syria claims life of child
Global pressure on Syria grows
  • Bashar Assad
  • Latakia
  • Syria

They were among those who fled as security forces cracked down on al-Ramel, a Latakia neighborhood that has been the center of anti-government demonstrations.

Syrian security forces told residents to get out during the military offensive, which occurred by sea as well as land. According to human rights activists and anti-government protesters, that's exactly what the girls' parents tried to do -- flee.

Activists said she was shot by security forces. The Syrian government has yet to comment. The activists believe her father was shot in the shoulder and possibly detained. The mother's fate is unknown.

On one video, a voice shrieks, "She's just a child. He killed her, the evil Bashar al-Assad," a reference to the nation's president.

On another, a voice says, "Look, these are Bashar al-Assad's reforms."

CNN cannot independently confirm the authenticity of the videos and the reports about them, so it is very difficult to find out how the child died.

The United Nations, global leaders, and human rights organizations all have urged the Syrian government to allow humanitarian workers, U.N. representatives and the media access to the country. Those pleas have had no effect.

But the videos are the latest in a series of grisly and disturbing images to emerge from the country.

Protesters consistently say the government is responsible for the conflict and bloodshed. Syria has consistently blamed the violence in the country on armed gangs.

Nevertheless, O'laa was an innocent, caught in the crossfire of an intensifying battle between those calling for freedom and a regime intent on staying in power.

Back in May, the U.N. Children's Fund, or UNICEF called on the government to spare civilians, particularly women and children, amid reports of youthful casualties.

"While UNICEF cannot verify the reported cases and events, we are particularly disturbed by the recent video images of children who were arbitrarily detained and suffered torture or ill-treatment during their detention, leading in some cases to their death," the agency said.

Asked for an update, a UNICEF spokesman said there is "nothing really to add" from the May statement.

Arwa Damon reported from Beirut, Lebanon; Joe Sterling reported from Atlanta.

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