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A harrowing image reportedly shows a mortally wounded Syrian girl trapped in rubble after an airstrike and clinging onto her baby sister to prevent her from falling.
The photo shows 5-year-old Riham al-Abdallah holding onto the T-shirt of her seven-month-old sister, Tuka, in the ruins of their home in rural Idlib province after an airstrike on Wednesday, Turkey-based Syrian news outlet SY24 told NBC News.
Riham and her mother Naqouh died of their wounds shortly after the photo was taken, the report said, while Tuka and another sibling are in intensive care.
Their horrified father Amjad is in the photo scrambling over the rubble.
“I got to the place and the father was trying to save his children trapped in the rubble, who were screaming and crying in pain,” correspondent Bashar al-Sheikh said in an article on SY24’s website.
Idlib, in northwest Syria, is the last pocket of resistance to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad after eight years of civil war, and has come under renewed bombardment by Russian and Syrian warplanes in recent months, rights groups say.
The family was on the fifth floor of the building but had fallen to the second floor after the airstrike. The girls fell to the ground along with debris from the building shortly after the photo was taken, SY24 said.
The number of children killed in Idlib in the last four weeks has exceeded the total for last year, charity Save the Children said in a statement Thursday, while the United Nations says 400 civilians have been killed in northwest Syria since the end of April.
“The current situation in Idlib is a nightmare. The injuries we are seeing are horrific. It’s clear that once again children have been killed and injured in indiscriminate attacks,” said Sonia Khush, Save the Children Syria Response Director.
Civilian infrastructure has also been damaged, including schools and hospitals, the UN said, and a separate statement by the Syrian American Medical Society said health facilities in the region had been attacked 39 times since late April.
"Ongoing clashes, shelling and airstrikes, including the use of indiscriminate weapons, such as barrel bombs, continue unabated in Idleb, in western Aleppo and in northern Hama, damaging schools, hospitals, and other critical civilian infrastructure, while hindering humanitarian aid operations," the UN said in a report Thursday.