Syrian girl who saved sister dangling from building bombed by Assad in viral image dies

Syrian girl who saved sister dangling from building bombed by Assad in viral image dies
One of the three sisters pictured in a tragic viral image from Syria's Idlib region was killed during the Assad regime-led airstrikes.
3 min read
26 July, 2019
The family suffered three losses during Wednesday's brutal airstrikes [SY24]

An image of destruction and tragedy from Syria's war-torn Idlib went viral on social media this week: two dust-covered Syrian girls, trapped in the rubble, grab their baby sister by her shirt as she dangles off the precipice of a shelled-out building.

Above them, atop the rubble, a man - the girls' father - slaps his hand against his forehead, his mouth gaping in horror or unleashing a scream as he looks on.

The image was captured on Wednesday by Bashar al-Sheikh, a photographer working for local Syrian news website SY24, just moments after airstrikes pummelled the town of Ariha in Idlib.

The region is Syria's last rebel-held bastion and the 3 million civilians living there have suffered a brutal aerial bombardment campaign by the Syrian regime and its ally Russia since late April.

Of the three girls in the photo, one is dead and two are fighting to stay alive, Dr Ismail, who treated the victims in a nearby hospital, told AFP.

Riham al-Abdullah, aged-five, who appears in the photo gripping her baby sister's green shirt, died shortly after the regime airstrike hit her home on Wednesday, the doctor said.

Her seven-months-old sister Touka, who is shown dangling from the rubble, is in intensive care after suffering wounds to her head.

"She has been receiving respiratory support for 24 hours", Dr Ismail said, adding that her condition was stable.

The devestating image quickly spread across social media [SY24]

Dalia, the third sister in the photo, is stable after undergoing chest surgery, another doctor in the same facility said.

Riham was part of a family of eight, consisting of two parents and six sisters.

In addition to the five-year-old girl, her mother and another sister not shown in the photo were also killed following Wednesday's airstrikes, Dr Ismail said.

The other daughter, Rowane, died on Friday from wounds suffered to her chest and stomach.

Tawfik Kattan, a rescue worker from Ariha, was pulling people from beneath the rubble the day of the raids.

After evacuating one of the victims, he returned to the battered building.

"When I came back, I was surprised to find that, unfortunately, the girls had fallen," he said, referring to the sisters.

While the Syrian regime and Russian offensive ostensibly aims to defeat the extremist groups that govern the majority of the province, civilians in Idlib have borne the brunt of the violence - although the area is supposed to be protected by a truce brokered by Turkey and Russia last year.

More than half of the province's population - around 1.5 million - is made up of Syrians who have already fled their homes elsewhere in the country at least once since the war began eight years ago.

At least 330,000 people have been displaced in Idlib and more than 30 medical facilities have been attacked in Idlib province since the regime assault began.

Save the Children said the number of children killed in Idlib over the past four weeks had exceeded the number slain in the same region in the whole of last year.