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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 April 2019

On Mother’s Day in Syria, a Russian airstrike killed a woman's entire family

As families across the region prepared to celebrate mothers, clashes in Idlib changed Umm Mohammed’s life forever

A White Helmet first responder stands next to a Russian made missile after an airstrike in the town Sarmin in the northern Idlib province on March 12, 2019. AFP
A White Helmet first responder stands next to a Russian made missile after an airstrike in the town Sarmin in the northern Idlib province on March 12, 2019. AFP

The evening before people across the region began to celebrate Mother’s Day, a suspected Russian airstrike in Syria’s Idlib levelled a family home and left Umm Mohammed as the sole survivor.

Her husband and four children were obliterated.

“The situation last night was unbelievably scary, the attacks happened in the midnight and we know that Umm Mohammed's family were all stuck,” said Fatima, a neighbour. “We were waiting as the Civil Defence, who were fighting against time to desperately pull their bodies out and save them.

“After a few hours of trying, they all were dead. We were all waiting, a sliver of home to be rescued. She is the only survivor,” Fatima said.

The strikes on Al Faqea village southern Idlib countryside are just the latest by Russian and Syrian forces in the last rebel-held area of Syria. Despite a de-escalation agreement signed last year, clashes are increasing and the millions of civilians are paying the price.

“I put myself in her position, to wake up with no family, all alone. It makes me cry non-stop. Why did this all have to happen, why does no one feel our agony or care about us,” Fatima asked.

She lamented the timing but said Umm Mohammed wasn’t alone, there are now many women in Syria who have lost all their loved ones. “Yes, they get some support when their wounds are fresh but then they are left behind and no one cares about them,” she said.

Fatima spoke candidly about her life in Idlib. “I don’t know if I will live through tonight or tomorrow. We will be killed until everyone outside achieves what they want [in Syria] and [we] pay with our blood and death. Shame on all of them”.

Thirty-four-year-old Maha Ghlo, the mother of 13-year-old Basma and 15-year-old Bara, described the strikes that killed Umm Mohammed’s husband and children.

“Out of the blue yesterday night, a huge ground shaking explosion [blew] dust and rocks all over the place in our house.”

She said her children were injured.

“I hoped to celebrate my mother today, but even if we want to spare some time to escape from the bloodshed around us we get these attacks right on our door,” she said. “Sometimes I wish we all died and left this miserable life that has brought us only grief.

She said the attacks were taking away any ability they had to celebrate the fleeting moments on normalcy in life.

The family had planned to gather at home, including Maha’s mother, and cook a simple dessert to mark Mother’s Day. The airstrike has shattered their plans.

“We can’t even pretend to be happy and distract ourselves and our children from the war with a couple of hours celebrating their granny and their mother,” she said.

“We went through a dark night before we were able to see the sunrise of Mother’s Day and celebrate it with our families,” she said. “[It was] a night of utter horror and death.”

Updated: March 21, 2019 06:48 PM

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