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Syrian snipers target pregnant women, unborn babies, doctor says

By Atika Shubert and Bharati Naik, CNN
October 23, 2013 -- Updated 1150 GMT (1950 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Syrian snipers playing a "targeting game," according to one volunteer doctor
  • David Nott said heavily pregnant women, children are being targeted
  • On some days, the type of wounds are suspiciously similar, he said
  • Syria needs a safe corridor for aid and medical suppliers, Nott said

(CNN) -- An X-ray shows a bullet lodged in a baby's head. The image would be chilling enough without knowing the child was still in its mother's womb when it became the target of snipers hiding in the shadows in northern Syria.

The mother survived. Her baby didn't. And it's not the only one.

Volunteer doctor David Nott, a British surgeon who's worked in several Syrian hospitals with the charity Syria Relief, says snipers are playing a "targeting game," and heavily pregnant women are on the hit list.

"Most of the children removed were seven, eight, nine months gestation, which meant it was fairly obvious to anybody that these women were pregnant."

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Young children are also being targeted, Nott said.

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Photos provided to CNN by Syria Relief show a young girl with painted nails lying in a hospital bed with head wounds. She appears no more than five years old. Another, around the same age, lies under a green sheet with a gaping wound to her forehead.

Nott said 90% of surgeries he performed on any given day were for sniper wounds.

On some days, the wounds were suspiciously similar.

"After a while we noticed that there were certain trends going on," Nott said.

"We had some days, say, 10 or 15 gunshot wounds of which eight or nine of them were targeted in one particular area. So for example, one day, we received say 15, 16 gunshot wounds and of that eight to nine were targeted in the left groin only.

"Then the following day they were targeted in the right groin only. So it seemed to me like there was some of thing going on -- a game going on -- between the snipers."

Knott said other local doctors he worked with told him they'd heard snipers were receiving little presents -- like packets of cigarettes -- for people they'd shot during the day.

UK Foreign Secretary Hague: No role for Bashar al-Assad in future Syria

Desperate dash for supplies

In video obtained by CNN from Aleppo, men, women and children try to outrun snipers' bullets as they cross from the regime-controlled enclave of the city to rebel-held areas.

They risk their lives because food and provisions are on the rebel side. But their homes and families are on the regime side. Desperate, they make a dash for supplies. Not everyone makes it through.

It is a scene reminiscent of another conflict: Bosnia. Its capital, Sarajevo, was literally under siege from snipers of the Bosnian Serb Army for more than four years.

But during that war in the early 1990s, the United Nations operated humanitarian corridors to ensure that, despite the fighting, aid still got through.

Nott also volunteered in Bosnia and described his relief back then at seeing extra supplies trucked in.

"It was wonderful to see the lorries coming in with UNHCR written on them. And when you saw one of them, you knew that that they were filled with food, provisions and medical aid for the besieged town."

He says Syria desperately needs the same.

"Now is the time to develop a humanitarian corridor to allow health and aid workers to go in, and not feel threatened on the way in and not feel threatened on the way out," he said.

"I felt very scared going in and coming out and this isn't right."

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