Idlib shelling at school drop-off witnessed by doctors

Dr Wael Hussein says he will never forget the faces of pupils on their way to school moments before the attack

An Idlib doctor described the terror of seeing schoolchildren on their way to school cut down by shelling on his commute, then treating the victims at his workplace minutes later.

Dr Wael Hussein, who has served as a general surgeon in Syria’s north-west Idlib governorate for seven years, said he has not had a moment to rest since the attack by forces loyal to President Bashar Al Assad on Wednesday.

“My shift begins in Idlib Central Hospital at 8.30am. At 7.50am, I was passing through Ariha on a very crowded road. There I saw children carrying books, holding their mothers’ hands, teachers crossing the road on the way to work and people opening their stores not knowing what was about to happen,” he said.

“Once I heard the explosion, which made my car shake, I immediately stopped to look behind me. After seeing what had happened, I informed my colleagues on our social media group that they should be prepared for receiving victims,” Dr Hussein said.

Dr Hussein said he rushed to the SAMS-supported Idlib Central Hospital and the first casualties began arriving just 10 minutes later. It was 9pm local time when Dr Hussein recounted the day’s harrowing events to The National.

“I haven’t had a moment’s rest – even until now,” he said via WhatsApp.

Thirteen people were killed by the shelling, and dozens more were injured in the heaviest reported civilian death toll in the past month. Ariha falls under Turkish influence, where loyalist forces have been fighting a proxy war with Syrian regime supporter, Russia.

Dr Hussein and his colleagues treated children with multiple trauma wounds in the chest, limbs, head and internal organs. His colleagues, did the same.

Unfortunately, Idlib is no stranger to such attacks. Save the Children in 2019 estimated that one child was killed in Idlib every day. Escalation between Russian and Turkish-backed forces have also resulted in almost daily artillery and air bombardments.

Dr Hussein says that he has a hard time processing all that goes on in Idlib, especially on days like Wednesday.

“As medical professionals, we are barely able to fathom the violence we witness. We are also constantly under psychological stress from the worry that one of the victims will be a mother, father, daughter or wife,” he says.

“We don’t feel like anyone cares about what’s happening to us.”

Dr Hussein says he sees the despair in people’s lives every day. "Being subjected to death and shelling without anyone standing in the way to stop the Syrian regime forces on top of that ... it’s just terrible,” he says, voice shaking.

“You see desperation and poverty on the streets and depression in people’s eyes. How can I describe how the victims’ families might be feeling?”

Dr Hussein says the people in Idlib have lost all hope and live in a reality with a grim and unclear future.

Updated: October 24th 2021, 7:27 AM