BEIRUT (AFP) - Bunker-busting bombs are putting children in so much danger in Syria's Aleppo that they won't even be able to return to underground schools when classes resume this weekend, a charity said on Friday (Sept 30).
The "ferocious assault" on Aleppo could deprive almost 100,000 school-age children of an education, said Save the Children, which supports 13 schools in the northern battleground city, including eight underground.
The United States has accused Russia of using "incendiary bunker-busting bombs" in a week-long aerial assault on the city's rebel-held east in support of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.
The Kremlin said on Thursday that it would press on with its bombing campaign, blaming the surge in violence on Washington's failure to control rebels in Aleppo and insisting Syrian forces were battling "terrorists".
Save the Children said the use of the "earthquake bombs" which burrow four to five metres into the ground before exploding meant even underground schools were unsafe.
"Schools in eastern Aleppo were due to re-open for the new school year tomorrow, but as the city continues to suffer a ferocious assault they will remain closed, depriving almost 100,000 school-age children of an education, while they continue in fear for their lives," it said in a statement.
The bunker-busting bombs are used to penetrate hardened targets such as underground military headquarters, leaving victims entombed in rubble.
"Parents are afraid to send their children to school because everything is targeted," said a school principal in eastern Aleppo only identified as Omar.
"The students are also suffering on all levels, you see them barely walking, dragging themselves, which makes them unable to focus on the learning and studying," Save the Children quoted him as saying.
"Regarding the bunker buster bombs, of course only hearing the sound creates a state of terror and panic that is not like anything else.
"The immense power of destruction is the most important, it can destroy underground shelters and basements and the buildings get totally destroyed, not just partially."
Save the Children said more than 300 children have been killed or wounded in eastern Aleppo in the past five days.
"We are not going to school because the airplanes bomb any gathering," said 12-year-old Amjad.
"When the plane comes we sit on the floor, afraid that things might fall above us. One of my friends died in the bombing - he was my best friend.
"I love to go to school to study and I wish I could become a civil engineer to rebuild the houses that were destroyed," he said, quoted by the charity.
Even before the latest escalation, school enrolments in Aleppo had fallen to as low as six per cent, said Save the Children.
"We're now more likely to see children being pulled from the rubble or treated on the floor of a hospital than sat at a school desk," said Mr Nick Finney, Save the Children head for northwest Syria.
"Children deserve the right to play, to learn, to be children.
"The use of bunker busting bombs means there is literally nowhere we can keep children safe, and we want to see the use of these weapons investigated as a potential war crime," he said.