Children pay the price of offensive in Idlib

Weedah Hamzah –
Khaled Bakour’s screams could be heard at the hospital where the 5-year-old boy was receiving medical treatment in the rebel-controlled province of Idlib in north-western Syria. Weeks ago, the boy was seriously injured in air strikes by Syrian government jets over his village of Maaret al Noumaan in rural Idlib.
He is one of many children at the sharp end of a military campaign by Syria, supported by allied Russian airpower, started in late April against the last major opposition stronghold in the country.
Some 536 civilians, including 134 children, have since been killed in the violence in the rebel enclave in Idlib and neighbouring province of Hama, according to estimates by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor. Khaled was in his room when a government jet bombed his village in mid-June, causing the wall of the room to collapse and leaving him with serious injuries to the arms, leg and other parts of the body, his family said.
Pictures of Khaled’s two brothers screaming for help in extricating their brother from the rubble went viral on social media. His mother, sitting next to him at the hospital in Idlib, has yet to recover from the trauma. “I could not see due to the thick dust,” she said by phone. “I looked around and started calling for my children. When Khaled did not answer, I thought he might have been lost.”
Khaled miraculously survived after rescuers from the voluntary aid group White Helmets managed to haul him up from under the rubble and rush him to a nearby hospital. He has stopped speaking since the bombardment, his family said.
“Khaled was brought into the hospital in Maaret al Nouman with broken bones and bruises. He was also semi-conscious,” Abdel-Hameed Dabak, the doctor who first treated Khaled, said. “The boy was in shock and totally covered with dust and blood. He was lucky to survive.”
According to Mohammed Katoub, a senior manager at the charity Syrian-American Medical Society (SAMS), their hospitals in the war-torn country have taken in 2,515 injured people, including 724 children, since the onset of the government offensive on Idlib.
“These numbers refer only to the injured people who were treated in SAMS facilities.
The overall figure may be higher. But SAMS hospitals often receive the majority of the injured as we run the major referral hospitals in Idlib,” Katoub said. The Idlib Health directorate puts the death toll in the government’s onslaught at 859 civilians, including 360 children, in Idlib alone. — dpa