Pro-regime media outlets said that Nabil Al-Abdullah, head of the National Defense Forces, a paramilitary militia fighting alongside regime forces, opened a military training course for children in the town of Suqailbya in rural Hama.
Photos posted on pro-regime Facebook pages show dozens of children who are doing military exercises under the supervision of military trainers.
Spokesman for the Syrian Coalition Salem al-Meslet said that the international community is fully responsible for every additional day in the life of the Assad regime and its crimes, stressing that the Syrian Coalition condemns recruiting of children in the armed conflict.
A new report released by Save the Children and UNICEF said that the conflict and humanitarian crisis in Syria are pushing an ever increasing number of children into exploitation in the labor market, and much more needs to be done to reverse the trend.
The report shows that inside Syria, children are now contributing to the family income in more than three quarters of surveyed households. In Jordan, close to half of all Syrian refugee children are now the joint or sole family breadwinners in surveyed households, while in some parts of Lebanon, children as young as six years old are reportedly working.
The most vulnerable of all working children are those involved in armed conflict, sexual exploitation and illicit activities including organized begging and child trafficking.
"The Syria crisis has dramatically reduced family livelihood opportunities and impoverished millions of households in the region, resulting in child labor reaching critical levels," says Dr. Roger Hearn, Regional Director for Save the Children in the Middle East and Eurasia. "As families become increasingly desperate, children are working primarily for their survival. Whether in Syria or neighboring countries, they are becoming main economic players."
The report finds that a spiraling number of children are employed in harmful working conditions, risking serious damage to their health and wellbeing.
Three out of four working children surveyed in Jordan's vast Za'atari refugee camp have reported health problems at work, according to the report. A further 22 per cent of children casually employed in the agricultural sector in Mafraq and the Jordan Valley have also been injured while working.
Moreover, children who work are more likely to drop out of school – adding to fears of a "lost generation" of Syrian children. (Source: Syrian Coalition)