A photograph of a boy sitting dazed and bloodied in the back of an ambulance after surviving a regime airstrike in Aleppo has highlighted the desperation of the Syrian civil war and the struggle for control of the city.
The child has been identified as five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, who was injured late on Wednesday in a military strike on the rebel-held Qaterji neighbourhood.
The startling image shows him covered head to toe with dust and so disoriented that he seems barely aware of an open wound on his forehead. He was taken to a hospital known as M10 and later discharged.
The image is a still from a video filmed and circulated by the Aleppo Media Centre. The anti-government activist group has been contacted to confirm details about when and where the footage was shot. The group posted the clip to YouTube late on Wednesday, shortly after Omran was injured.
The fight for control of Aleppo has intensified in recent weeks following gains made by rebel groups battling the forces of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.
On Thursday the UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, suspended a meeting of a humanitarian aid taskforce co-chaired by Russia and the US, citing his frustration about the delay to aid deliveries to besieged areas of the country. De Mistura reiterated his call for a 48-hour pause in the fighting, notably in Aleppo.
Rescue workers and journalists arrived in Qaterji shortly after the strike and began pulling victims from the rubble. “We were passing them from one balcony to the other,” said Mahmoud Raslan, a photojournalist who captured the footage. He told the Associated Press he had passed along three lifeless bodies before receiving the wounded boy.
Omran was rescued with his three siblings, aged one, six, and 11, and his mother and father, according to Raslan. None sustained major injuries, but their apartment building collapsed shortly after the family was rescued.
“We sent the younger children immediately to the ambulance, but the 11-year-old girl waited for her mother to be rescued. Her ankle was pinned beneath the rubble,” Raslan said.
A doctor at M10 said eight people had died in the airstrike, including five children. Doctors in Aleppo use codenames for hospitals, which they say have been systematically targeted by government airstrikes.
The image has been shared thousands of times by people on social media, including by David Miliband, the former UK foreign secretary and now president of the International Rescue Committee. The initial tweet by the Telegraph reporter Raf Sanchez has been retweeted more than 12,000 times.
David Baines, a campaigner for Labour in the UK, remarked on the “horror” in Aleppo. “That little boy in the back of the ambulance, alone and dazed. Bloody awful. What can we do??” he asked.
Lydia Shelly, an Australian lawyer and community advocate, tweeted: “We need a political & social resolution to conflict in Syria & Iraq. We are losing a whole generation of children.”
The M10 hospital was hit by airstrike in early August, an attack that was captured on CCTV footage. (The Guardian)