BEIRUT — The images are horrifying, yet they show a familiar scene from perhaps the most violent and complex conflict in the world today. Disfigured people, including bloodied children, receiving medical treatment. Emergency responders walking through smolder and rubble. Body bags.
It could have been just about any other day in Syria. This time, according to pro-opposition media and monitoring groups, it was Oct. 26, a Wednesday afternoon, in the village of Haas in the rebel-held province of Idlib. The area in northwestern Syria is controlled by an array of rebels, including extremists with links to al-Qaeda.
The attack killed at least 22 people, 14 of them children, according to groups such as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based conflict monitor of the civil war.
Among the targeted locations was an elementary school, according to the observatory, which added that the death toll could rise.
One picture on Twitter purportedly showing the incident is of a little boy in bed, alive, with his left leg bandaged.
In another, just an arm is shown on the ground as it clings to what could be a school bag. (Warning: Image is graphic.)
The photographs couldn’t be independently verified. But they bear all the hallmarks of seemingly countless other attacks in a conflict which is estimated to have killed more than 400,000 people.
Wednesday’s incident, to be more precise, bore the hallmarks of an air raid conducted either by Syria’s government or its ally, Russia.
Their aircraft have laid waste to civilian infrastructure in Idlib and just about every other opposition-friendly area of the country, according to rebels, activists, monitoring groups, aid organizations and human rights groups.
They have compiled seemingly countless reports detailing the nature of such attacks. The weaponry, according to the reports, ranges from barrel bombs (crude cylinders stuffed with TNT that are being tipped out of aircraft) to munitions similar to napalm, which have incinerated entire neighborhoods.
Syrian officials say its attacks are limited to “terrorists,” a term that seemingly means just about anyone involved in opposition to Assad. Russian officials also deny targeting civilians.
Media attention has been focused on Assad’s attempt to drive out the rebels who control parts of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city before the war and now a key battlefield. His forces are besieging some 200,000 people in that area, denying them food and medicine. Russian aircraft have joined Syrian warplanes and helicopters in targeting hospitals and homes in rebel-controlled eastern Aleppo, according to aid groups and activists.
If anything, Wednesday’s attack further demonstrates that the killing extends far beyond Aleppo.
As far as Syrian state media are concerned, the targets of the Haas bombings were militants. There was no mention of schools or civilians or children.
And as for Syria, the seeming denial of targeting civilians in Haas suggests that more of them will die in this horrific conflict.
Zakaria Zakaria in Istanbul contributed to this report.