BEIRUT (AP) — A 13-year-old boy emerged with a bloodied arm and swollen red eyes from under the rubble to the cries of rescue workers. He didn’t yet know that his mother and two siblings were dead — killed by bombs that opposition activists said were dropped by Syrian government warplanes on a residential building Thursday in the last rebel stronghold in Syria.
The bombings pancaked the building in Maaret al-Numan, a town in southern Idlib province, and killed at least five, including three members of the Qasheet family.
Fighting has raged in Idlib and surrounding areas since April 30, when Syrian troops supported by airstrikes entered the overcrowded enclave. The area stands in Syrian President Bashar Assad’s way as he seeks a final victory against armed government opposition after eight years of civil war.
The U.N. children’s agency said more than 130 children have reportedly been killed over the last month and nearly 30 hospitals came under attack. UNICEF warned that the escalating violence is putting the lives of tens of thousands of children in danger.
The agency said that children who bear “no responsibility” for the war suffer more than anyone. The emergency relief efforts are “quick fixes that can go only so far in mitigating the humanitarian fallout from such brutal and gratuitous violence,” UNICEF said.
Video shot by the Syrian Civil Defense showed volunteers working to pull bodies and survivors from under the collapsed building in Maaret al-Numan.
The volunteers from the group known as the White Helmets pulled away cement blocks to reach the lifeless body of a 14-year-old boy. His father, standing behind the camera, wept, repeating his son’s name, Abboudi, as rescuers mulled how to lift the heavy structure. A large bulldozer stood nearby.
In a bright blue shirt, Abboudi was face down, squeezed between two large cement blocks and there was a pool of blood under his nose.
Amid the frenzy, a younger boy emerged from a gap in the rubble with swollen red eyes, dusty hair and body, his shirt barely hanging onto his torso. It was Abboudi’s younger brother, Hakam, just a few meters (yards) from his brother’s smashed body. Rescuers cheered and walked Hakam Qasheet out of the area.
His mother and another sibling, a girl, were also killed under the rubble.
Activist-operated Baladi News agency reported five people were killed in the strike.
The rebel stronghold is home to some 3 million people. Bombs and shells rained on the crowded enclave, sending tens of thousands of civilians fleeing to safer areas in the north.
The U.N. has warned its humanitarian operations in the region are at risk.
UNICEF said its partners in Idlib had to suspend their operations while 43,000 children have had to leave school. Final exams for the academic year were postponed in many parts of the rebel-held enclave, affecting the education of 400,000 students living there, it said.