HS in Syria: Helicopter kills seven children in Aleppo – only one survives
Free-lance photographer gets pictures of aftermath
Two families with four children, all of the larger Hejjo family had just settled into a house in the centre of Aleppo after fleeing their home on the outskirts of the city, where there was fighting.
On Monday morning a bomb fell on their new dwelling, and one-year-old Hussein Hejjo was the only one found alive in the rubble.
Finnish photographer Niklas Meltio says that the men who dug the boy out of the rubble said that he was found in the lap of his dead mother. At the time of the explosion Meltio was just a few blocks away and rushed to the scene to document the events.
Meltio says that the bomb was dropped by a Syrian government helicopter.
Government forces are constantly attacking civilian areas held by the government. Last week Syria stepped up its attacks, especially by plane and helicopter, and more civilians are being killed. According to UNICEF, about 1,600 people died in the fighting last week, making it the bloodiest week in the civil war.
The work of journalists in Syria is very difficult and dangerous, and it is hard to get independent eyewitness accounts and photographs from the fighting. Helsingin Sanomat is now publishing Meltio’s pictures of the civilian victims of Aleppo.
Meltio is a free-lance photographer who has made a number of trips to Syria. This week he returned from his fourth trip. Before that Meltio had been in Aleppo a month ago.
On his most recent visit, he spent time in the centre of Aleppo. The area is under rebel control, but it is not a battle zone, and many civilians live there. "People live normal lives there, even though rebels walk the streets", Meltio says.
Early on Monday he as sleeping in a local hospital and woke to the sound of a bombs falling.
"A bomb fell into a bakery outside the hospital. The bakery was closed at the time, so people were not queuing up to get in."
Meltio went outside to photograph the damage. He says that several bombs were dropped in the area.
He heard that there had been an explosion at a residential building a few blocks away. "A couple of minutes later, the first dead child was brought to the hospital from there."
Meltio went to the scene of the explosion. "As far as I know it was an ordinary civilian building", he says.
"There were no rebel bases anywhere near it."
Meltio saw one child after another being taken out. "The digging took a few hours", he says.
The other residents said that two families were living there, both with the surname Hejjo, whose children were cousins with each other.
The parents of one of the families were not in the house at the time of the explosion, but all of their children were killed. All of the members of the other family were also killed except the one-year-old Hussein.
Meltio also saw the destruction caused by the bomb.
"The entire interior of the house collapsed all the way to the cellar."
The helicopter was still hovering over the area when the victims were being dug out of the rubble, Meltio says.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Ahtisaari proposes elections as honourable path for Syrian President (6.8.2012)
Finnish UN observers return from Syria: “It was full-on war” (23.8.2012)
Syrian refugees tell HS that rebels hold villages near Aleppo (2.8.2012)