A heartbreaking photo puts a face to Aleppo’s escalating disaster

The new face of Syria’s war.
The new face of Syria’s war.
Image: Aleppo Media Center via AP Photo
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In the photo, he looks past the camera, dazed, bleeding and caked in dust from head to toe. He sits still, his hands on his lap, his bare feet protruding from the orange ambulance seat. His name is Omran Daqneesh, he is five years old, and he is the latest victim of the brutal war that has engulfed Syria since March 2011.

Omran was injured on Wednesday following an airstrike by the Syrian government on the rebel-held neighborhood of Qaterji, in Aleppo. Three people were reported killed and eight others injured in the attack.

The photo of Omran is a still from a video released by the Aleppo Media Center, an anti-government activist group based in the city. The photo immediately struck a chord with people across the world, and went viral on social media. Many gave it the title of “The Boy in the Ambulance.”

His picture looks set to join that of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi as a symbol of the toll Syria’s war has taken on its children. Kurdi was trying to reach Greece when the boat they were on capsized. The photos of his body washed up on a Turkish beach shocked the world.

Omran’s photo also symbolizes the cataclysm in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city (and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world), which was once a bustling hub of trade and finance. In early August, rebels in the city celebrated breaking the month-long government siege that had cut off the eastern part of the city.

Since then, however, the airstrikes have reportedly become more intense, causing more injuries and deaths. Last week, the only 15 physicians left in eastern Aleppo penned a letter to US president Barack Obama asking for humanitarian assistance for the 300,000 civilians trapped in that area of the city.