Civilians always bear the brunt of conflict. That is especially the case in Syria, where hundreds of thousands have been killed over more than five years of war and millions have been displaced. It was as clear as ever Thursday after a reported airstrike hit the rebel-held neighborhood of al-Kalasa in the northern city of Aleppo.
Footage posted to the YouTube channel of a well-known Syrian civil defense organization, known as the “White Helmets,” depicted the aftermath: sirens blaring, men shouting and pulling bodies from the rubble. The air was still filled with dust.
Among the wrenching images that emerged from the carnage was a series showing the careful evacuation of a young child from a building reduced to pieces.
A civil defense member is shown passing the child to a man, who carefully grasps and cradles the toddler. The man in plaid then passes the child to a young man, who is ready to give the toddler to the next pair of waiting arms. The child is eventually passed to a man on the ground, who carefully walks over the rubble with a woman. The precision with which they appear to work conjures up the grim understanding that they have done this time and again.
Late Wednesday, a separate airstrike hit the city’s Al Quds hospital, supported by Medecins Sans Frontieres. In a statement on Thursday, the organization condemned the attack that destroyed the “vital” facility. Muskilda Zancada, MSF’s head of mission in Syria, called the deadly attack an “outrageous targeting of yet another medical facility in Syria.”
The airstrikes came about two months after a U.S.- and Russia-supported cease-fire between warring sides was negotiated. This week, U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura said the fragile truce was “barely alive.” On Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy in Syria praised the White Helmets in a tweet: “We commend the heroic members of @SyriaCivilDef, who have saved over 40K ppl by serving as impartial emergency responders on the front lines.”