Syrian boy Aleppo

Five-year-old Syrian Omran Daqneesh sits in the seat of an ambulence after an airstrike blew up his family's home in eastern Aleppo, Syria, in a photo taken by activist Mahmoud Raslan.

Credit:

Courtesy of Aleppo Media Center

Five-year-old Omran Daqneesh sits silently and in shock in the seat of an ambulance. He is covered from head to toe in dust, a red streak down one side of his face. He reaches for the side of his head and notices his wound, wiping the blood nervously on the chair in which he sits.

Moments earlier, he was pulled from the wreckage of his home in the Qaterji neighborhood of eastern Aleppo, destroyed by an airstrike carried out by Syrian government or Russian forces in the middle of the night. Four other children, one woman and two men were also injured in the same strike.

The image of Omran, shared thousands of times on social media, is a reminder of the daily hell that is Aleppo, which is currently at the center of a fierce battle between rebels and government forces and its allies. It was taken from this accompanying video, distributed by an activist network called the Aleppo Media Center. 

The bombardment of the rebel-held east of the city has increased dramatically since an alliance of rebel groups, among them Jabhat Fateh al-Sham — which was until recently a branch of al-Qaeda — broke a government-imposed siege earlier this month.

Hospitals and medical facilities have not been spared by the daily strikes. On Monday, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, called the battle for Aleppo “one of the most devastating urban conflicts in modern times.”

Doctors working in eastern Aleppo said Omran was treated for his head wound and discharged without any serious physical injuries. They added 12 other children under the age of 15 were brought to the same hospital on Wednesday after airstrikes battered the city.

On Thursday, another child did not survive another attack in the Saleheen neighborhood of the city. Doctors in the M2 hospital said they had tried to resuscitate a young boy injured in a strike, but were unsuccessful.

On the same day, Syrian state news agency SANA reported that 10 civilians were killed by rebel rocket fire in government-held western Aleppo.

As the fighting intensifies in Aleppo, Syrians and activists trapped inside the city have expressed frustration with the international community for not doing more to stop the killing.

In recent days, Russia signaled it was close to reaching a deal with the US on fighting the Islamic State group in the Aleppo area.

Last month, Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov announced a deal that would see them cooperate on Jabhat al-Nusra, which has since changed its name to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and broke ties with al-Qaeda.

Russia has frequently bombed not just Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, but also rebel groups backed by the United States. The deal would require Russia to only bomb targets agreed upon with the US, and would remove the Syrian air force from the skies. Opposition activists and fighters have criticized the pact because it would benefit Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by targeting one of the most effective fighting forces against him. Many rebel groups oppose the extremist ideology of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, but have been forced into an alliance with it to survive.

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