Gunmen stormed Syrian hospital where baby Aya is being treated, official says

The attackers reportedly beat the clinic's doctor

Aya, who was born under the rubble caused by the earthquake that hit Syria and Turkey on February 6, receives treatment at a children's hospital in Afrin, Syria.  AP Photo
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Gunmen stormed a hospital in northern Syria where Aya, a baby born in the rubble of the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria last week, is receiving care, a hospital official said on Tuesday.

The official told the Associated Press that the attackers beat up the clinic's doctor.

The official denied reports on social media claiming that the Monday night attack was an attempt to kidnap the infant. Aya, Arabic for “a sign from God”, has been cared for at the hospital since being rescued from rubble after the earthquake on February 6. Her mother, father and four siblings were all killed.

The progress of Aya has been closely followed since her birth and people from around the world have been offering their help.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said the hospital director had suspected that a nurse who was taking pictures of Aya was planning to kidnap her and told him to leave. The nurse allegedly returned hours later accompanied by gunmen who beat up the director. The director's wife has been breast-feeding Aya.

On arrival, the gunmen told police officers protecting the girl that they were going after the director for firing their friend. They said they were not interested in Aya, according to the official.

Several people have falsely claimed to be Aya's relatives, prompting local policemen to guard her.

Aya may be able to leave the hospital as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday, according to her great uncle, Saleh Al Badran. He said the baby’s paternal aunt, who recently gave birth and survived the quake, will raise her.

Rescue workers in the northern Syrian town of Jinderis discovered the dark-haired baby girl about 10 hours after the quake hit, as they were digging through the wreckage of the five-story apartment building where her parents lived.

Buried under the concrete, she was still connected by her umbilical cord to her mother, Afraa Abu Hadiya. She was rushed to the hospital in nearby Afrin, where she has been cared for since.

The devastating quake followed by a series of tremors that struck south-eastern Turkey and northern Syria reduced many of the towns and cities to rubble and twisted metal. More than 35,000 people are known to have been killed, and that toll is expected to rise considerably as search teams find more bodies.

The earthquake destroyed dozens of housing units in the town of Jinderis, where Aya’s family had been living since 2018.

Aya’s father, Abdullah Turki Mleihan, was originally from the village of Khsham in eastern Deir el-Zour province, but left in 2014 after ISIS captured their village, said one of his uncles.

Updated: February 14, 2023, 3:47 PM