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This Heartbreaking Photo Captures the Horrors of Syria's Civil War

The 5-year-old Syrian girl who attempted to save her sister's life later died at the hospital.

by Alex Lubben
Jul 26 2019, 6:28pm

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A Syrian girl grabbed her sister's skirt to keep her from falling, dangling her over the rubble of a bombed-out building. Above them both, a man stands with his hand on his forehead and his mouth agape in shock.

The scene was captured in a photo Wednesday by Syrian photographer Bashar al-Sheik, in the town of Ariha in Syria’s northwest province, according to Agence France-Presse. The area has been a regular target of Syrian and Russian airstrikes.

The photo has gone viral on social media, the latest image that’s come to represent the horrors of the war in Syria.

The girl who was gripping her younger sister to keep her from tumbling into the rubble, Riham al-Abdullah, was 5 years old. She died later that day, a doctor told AFP. Her seven-month-old sister Touka is reportedly in intensive care after suffering a head injury. Their sister, Dalia, barely visible in the photo, is recovering after a chest surgery.

“I got to the place and the father was trying to save his children trapped in the rubble.”

Their mother died in the bombings as well.

READ: How Assad is using hospital bombings to win his war in Syria

The area is meant to be protected under an international truce, but Damascus and Russia have bombed it repeatedly in recent weeks.

“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,” al-Sheikh told a Syrian news outlet.

The bombing was in the region of Idlib, the last place where there’s still resistance to Syrian President Bashar Assad. The area is technically one of four de-escalation zones, truce areas brokered by Turkey, Russia, and Iran in May 2017. But the bombings are ticking up.

The number of children killed there in the last four weeks has surpassed the number killed in the last year, Save the Children said in a statement.

“The current situation in Idlib is a nightmare,” said Sonia Khush, Save the Children Syria response director. “It’s clear that once again children have been killed and injured in indiscriminate attacks.”

Cover: AFP PHOTO / HO / SY24