Friday 17 November 2017

10-year-old brother of Omran dies three days after air strike on his Aleppo home

HORROR: Three-year-old Omran Daqneesh sits in an ambulance after being pulled out of a building hit by an airstirke in Aleppo, Syria, last Wednesday. (Aleppo Media Center via AP)
HORROR: Three-year-old Omran Daqneesh sits in an ambulance after being pulled out of a building hit by an airstirke in Aleppo, Syria, last Wednesday. (Aleppo Media Center via AP)

Raf Sanchez

When the bombs came crashing down on the Daqneesh family home, one son emerged from the rubble almost unscathed and instantly became a global symbol.

The other son died quietly in hospital completely unknown to the world.

It emerged yesterday that Omran Daqneesh's older brother Ali had succumbed to injuries suffered in the same air strike that put his sibling on television screens across the planet.

Ali, 10, was out on the street when a Russian or Syrian regime bomb fell on his family's building in Aleppo's Qaterji neighbourhood on Wednesday.

While the rest of his family suffered minor injuries as their flat collapsed around them, Ali appears to have been more fully exposed to the bomb blast and died in hospital. Omran's father, who asked to be identified only by the nickname Abu Ali, meaning "father of Ali", received mourners at the family's temporary home on Saturday.

Omran, three, and his three surviving siblings stayed inside the house as Abu Ali accepted condolences on the street. News of Ali's death was also confirmed by the Syrian Coalition, an umbrella organisation made up of different opposition groups.

Ali can now be counted among "the other Omrans", the Syrian children who are being hurt or killed everyday in their country's brutal civil war but whose photographs do not go viral and whose names do not make the news.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates that 142 children were killed in Aleppo in August alone. Around 50,000 children are believed to have died across the country during the last five years of fighting although exact figures are impossible to calculate. Countless others have been injured and no one can quantify the scale of psychological trauma suffered by a generation of children who have known nothing but war.

Read more: Brother of Omran Daqneesh 'dies of injuries in hospital' three days after Aleppo air strike

Dr Zaher Sahloul has seen many of the Syrian war's youngest victims and their unspeakable injuries. Yet one of the images most seared into his memory is a simple picture drawn by a seven-year-old boy from Aleppo.

It shows Assad regime helicopters dropping barrel bombs on children below. Those that are still alive are weeping and in pain but the ones who are already dead look serene and at peace.

"Somehow he thought that the children who died are in a better place than those who are alive," Dr Sahloul said. "This is what happens to children in Aleppo and in other places."

Russia has denied responsibility for Wednesday's air strikes in the Qaterji district, which killed at least eight people, including five children.

Aleppo, which is split between regime and rebel control, has been at the epicentre of continued battles and bombing despite successive attempts at ceasefires. More air strikes were reported yesterday, with pro-rebel activists saying one bombing killed seven members of the same family - including six children - early in the morning.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said more than 300 civilians have been killed in three weeks of bombing in Aleppo. Around half were reportedly killed by Syrian and Russian air strikes and shelling on opposition-controlled districts, while rebel attacks killed more than 160 civilians on the regime side of the city.

Approximately 250,000 people live in the city's eastern districts, while another 1.2 million live in its western neighbourhoods.

Aid convoys have not been able to access the city for months, with fighting continuing as a coalition of Islamist militants including the former al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra fight to open up a corridor out of besieged areas.

Russia, which has been conducting air strikes in support of the Syrian regime since September, said it was willing to support weekly 48-hour ceasefires to allow aid to reach besieged areas. But battles continued yesterday as forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad attempted to reinforce positions.

Elsewhere in Syria, fighting between the regime army and Kurdish forces intensified around the north-eastern city of Hasakah. The situation risks bringing the US and Syrian government into direct conflict for the first time after American jets were scrambled to prevent the bombing of US special forces and allies on the ground.

Kurdish groups, who took control of the area after the army withdrew in 2012, have not been a focus of Bashar al-Assad's forces so far in the conflict, with them focusing mainly on Sunni Arab rebels in the West.

The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) have now become a key ally for the US-led coalition in the battle against Isis, and were reportedly involved in preliminary peace talks with the Syrian regime on Saturday.


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