Five-year-old Riham among those killed in Idlib airstrike
A five-year-old girl’s desperate attempt to save her baby sister from falling down a bomb-hit building in Syria has captured the brutality of the country’s years-long war.
Footage by Syrian media outlet SY24 showed Riham trapped in the rubble holding her infant sister by her shirt as their father looked on in horror moments after the building they were in was hit by government or government-backed air raid in the town of Ariha in the country’s rebel-held Idlib province on Wednesday.
“When I arrived at the place, the father was trying to save his children, who were trapped in the rubble, screaming and weeping with great pain,” said Bashar al-Sheikh, an SY24 photographer whose picture of the scene has since attracted widespread online attention said.
“After falling from the fifth floor as a result of the cracking of the building, I turned off the camera and went to rescue them and put them in a car to take them to the hospital,” he added.
The Syrian media outlet reported that Riham died in hospital while her sister remains in intensive care.
On Thursday, Syrian activists and rescue workers said at least 10 civilians, including three children, were killed in air raids on villages and towns in rebel-held areas in northwestern Syria.
The bombing hit Idlib, Aleppo and Hama provinces.
White Helmets reported four people were killed in Kfar Rouma and Maaret Numan in Idlib, while five were killed in the Aleppo province.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said one person was also killed in Hama.
Under President Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s government and allied Russian forces have stepped up their deadly raids on the Idlib region since late April, despite an international deal intended to prevent a full-scale offensive on the area of some three million people.
Northwest Syria, home to some three million people, is the last remaining bastion of anti-government rebels after eight years of war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.
Russia and Turkey, long-time backers of rebel groups operating in the country, brokered an agreement intended to stave off an all-out government-led assault on Idlib in September, but that deal was never fully implemented as opposition fighters refused to withdraw from the planned buffer zone.
‘Act of desperation’
United Nations officials alleged last month that Syrian and Russian forces might be deliberately targeting hospitals and schools in Idlib in a bid to “terrorise” civilians and empty out the area.
The US State Department went further on Tuesday, saying Syrian and Russian attacks that “deliberately strike civilian infrastructure” were an “act of desperation” that threatens the political process.
Despite the intense violence in the province, the government offensive has stalled, with limited advance of its troops, helped by Russian air attacks, into the edge of the enclave where the main fighters are dominated by rebel groups. But the violence has taken a heavy toll on civilians.
At least 350 civilians have been killed and some 330,000 forced to flee their homes since fighting escalated in the area, according to the UN.