The Russian military said Thursday it was ready to back a U.N. call for weekly cease-fires for Syria’s contested city of Aleppo, as haunting footage of a young boy’s rescue from the aftermath of an airstrike shook global media.
The image of the stunned and weary-looking boy, sitting in an ambulance caked with dust and with blood on his face, captured the horror that has beset the war-torn northern city as photographs of the child were widely shared on social media.
An hour after his rescue, the badly damaged building the boy was in completely collapsed.
A doctor in Aleppo identified the child as 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh. He was brought to the hospital, known as “M10,” on Wednesday night, following an airstrike by Russian or government warplanes on the rebel-held neighborhood of Qaterji, said Dr. Osama Abu al-Ezz. The boy suffered head wounds but no brain injury, and was later discharged.
Eight people died in the strike, including five children, according to a doctor who gave only his first name, Abo Mohammadian. Many doctors working in Aleppo’s opposition areas do not give their full names for fear of reprisals against their relatives in government areas.
In the video posted late Wednesday by the Aleppo Media Center, a man was seen carrying Omran away from the chaotic nighttime scene and into an ambulance. Looking dazed, the boy ran his hands over his blood-covered face, then wiped them on the orange ambulance chair.
The powerful imagery reverberated across social media, drawing to mind the anguished global response to the photos of Aylan Kurdi, the drowned Syrian boy whose body was found on a beach in Turkey and came to represent the horrific toll of Syria’s civil war.
Such scenes are commonplace in Aleppo, where 233 civilians were killed in indiscriminate exchanges of fire between rebels and government forces in the first two weeks of August alone, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.
Activists living in opposition areas rely on informants in government-controlled Latakia province to warn residents of impending airstrikes. On Wednesday evening, an informant relayed word of a warplane taking off from the Russian air base at Hmeimim.
“We expected the plane to arrive in Aleppo airspace in two minutes, and sure enough it did,” Raslan said. “It struck twice.”
The fighting has frustrated the U.N.’s efforts to fulfill its humanitarian mandate, and the world body’s special envoy to Syria cut short a meeting Thursday of the ad hoc committee — chaired by Russia and the United States — tasked with de-escalating the violence so that relief can reach beleaguered civilians.
Later Thursday, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Russia would back the initiative on condition the aid convoys travel to both rebel-controlled and government-held parts of the city. He said Russia was ready to support deliveries starting next week.
Konashenkov said cease-fire dates for Aleppo could be determined in coordination with the United Nations and after receiving guarantees of safe passage of the convoys from the United States.
Elsewhere, the Russian military said it launched another round of aerial attacks from Iran, striking Islamic State targets in Syria’s eastern province of Deir el-Zour for a third straight day.
The raid struck five ammunition and fuel facilities, six command facilities and “destroyed a large number of terrorists, artillery and armor,” the Russian Defense Ministry said.