Omran Daqneesh, the five-year-old Syrian boy filmed sitting bloodied and alone in the back of an ambulance Wednesday evening, is “fine and well” according to a member of the team that pulled him from the rubble of a ruined building.
Khaled Khatib, a photographer for the Syrian Civil Defense movement, also known as the White Helmets, told TIME over WhatsApp that “Omran and his family are well now, all his family survived.” He added that Omran’s “injuries were not dangerous” and that although he was “injured in his face,” he only had to stay in hospital for a few hours.
The child was hospitalized after a military strike on the rebel-held Qaterji neighbourhood in eastern Aleppo, in the city that has seen the fiercest fighting of the civil war between the regime of Bashar Assad and rebels dedicated to his ouster. Three people were killed and 10 injured in this strike, including Omran.
Startling footage taken by photojournalist Mahmoud Raslan and circulated by the Aleppo Media Centre shows a dazed-looking and dust-covered Omran being carried into an ambulance. The child is so disoriented that he neither cries nor shouts but instead looks confused as he puts his hand up to a large open wound on his forehead.
His family are nowhere to be seen in the footage, but ABC News journalist Sophie McNeill reported that they were brought to a hospital later. “Omran’s mum and dad then arrived [at the hospital] shortly after… in a second wave of injured people. Only then, once Omran saw them, did he start to cry”.
Syrian-born photographer Khatib, 20, says he has been a member of the White Helmets for three years. The volunteer-only Syrian rescue and humanitarian group is credited with saving the lives of 60,000 people, and members work under constant attack and fear of death. The group has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize because, as Al Jazeera reports, “their efforts to save lives in the most dangerous place on earth are awe-inspiring, and merit the deepest respect”.
Khatib told TIME that seeing children like Omran is a daily occurrence; the Syrian Observatory For Human Rights estimates that more than 14,000 children have died since the conflict began in 2010. “I have a lot of photos of injured children and it is very sad. I hate all of the world whenever I see a child crying, injured or killed.”
The daily routine of a White Helmet rescuer is a grim one, he continues. “During a normal day in Aleppo, I wake up to the sound of air strikes and go to see if there is a new massacre, then try and get water for my home… Air strikes on populated areas that are not under the control of the Syrian army are ongoing. Most hospitals in Aleppo are targeted and the arson makes me crazy.”
The only comfort he gets is from calling his family, who managed to flee Syria to Turkey. “All they want is for me to be with them in Turkey.”
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