BEIRUT // The little Syrian boy whose image has reverberated around the globe as a symbol of the suffering in Syria has not spoken a word since he was rescued from a collapsed building in Aleppo.
The doctor who treated Omran Daqneesh’s head wound said the child had been reunited with his parents and siblings but after more than 48 hours he had still not said a word.
“Omran was afraid but he didn’t cry because he was in shock,” said the doctor, identified only as Dr Mohammad.
The five-year-old was pulled from the rubble after his home was hit by an air raid. Though his head was bleeding, he suffered no brain injury.
The image of the bewildered boy, covered in dust and blood and staring blankly, has captured hearts around the world.
A US state department official expressed his shock at seeing Omran’s photograph, calling him “the real face” of the country’s war.
“That little boy has never had a day in his life where there hasn’t been war, death, destruction, poverty in his own country,” state department spokesman John Kirby told reporters during his daily press briefing.
Departing from his usual diplomatic talking points, Kirby asked the reporters how many among them had seen photos of the child.
“You don’t have to be a dad, but I am. You can’t but help look at that and see that that’s the real face of what’s going on in Syria,” said Mr Kirby. His boss, secretary of state John Kerry has spent months trying to forge a pathway with Russia to end the war. In July, Washington and Moscow agreed to cooperate more closely in an attempt to salvage a failing truce and focus on battling ISIL extremists.
”And he continues to urge Russia to work with him on a set of proposals that we agreed to in Moscow and teams are still trying to work out, try to get the cessation of hostilities to be more enforceable across the wide expanse of Syria in an enduring way,”said Mr Kirby.
That seemed a remote possibility on Friday, however, as the Russian military said two of its ships had launched cruise missiles at targets in Syria from the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said the Serpukhov and the Zeleny Dol corvettes launched three long-range Kalibr cruise missiles at the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda, formerly known as the Nusra Front. The ministry said the missiles destroyed a command facility and a militant camp near the town of Daret Azzeh — held by extremists — along with a mine-making facility and a weapons facility in the province of Aleppo.
Russian warships in the past have launched cruise missiles at targets in Syria from both the Caspian Sea and the Mediterranean, a show of the navy’s long-range precision strike capability.
The cruise missile strikes have added an extra punch to the aerial campaign Russia has conducted since September in support of President Bashar Assad’s military.
The development comes after Russia this week began using Iranian territory to launch air strikes in Syria, with Moscow’s bombers flying out of the Islamic Republic for three straight days to hit targets in the war-ravaged country
Syrian and Russian aircraft have been carrying out intense air strikes this week on opposition strongholds across northern Syria to prevent rebels sending reinforcements to the city.
Aleppo — Omran’s hometown — has been the scene of intense fighting since July 31, when the “Army of Conquest” alliance of rebels and fanatics launched a major offensive to break a regime siege of opposition-controlled districts. But neither side has achieved a decisive victory despite hundreds dead on both sides.
In Geneva, UN envoy Staffan de Mistura cut short the weekly meeting of the humanitarian task force headed by the United States and Russia, in protest at the failure of warring parties to allow aid to reach civilians.
“Not one single convoy in one month has reached any of the humanitarian besieged areas,” he told reporters.
Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov later announced that Moscow was “ready to implement the first 48-hour ‘humanitarian pause’ to deliver humanitarian aid to Aleppo residents” next week.
De Mistura welcomed the move and said the UN was counting on Moscow’s help to ensure “the adherence of the Syrian armed forces to the pause, once it comes into effect”.
The Syrian conflict has left more than 290,000 people dead and displaced millions since it began in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government demonstrations.
Amnesty International said Thursday that Syrian authorities were committing torture on a “massive scale” in government prisons including beatings, electric shocks, rape and psychological abuse that amount to crimes against humanity.
More than 17,700 people are estimated to have died in custody since the conflict began, an average of more than 300 each month, the watchdog said in a report.
The American road map to end the war includes a national ceasefire, opening up of humanitarian aid, and the resumption of political negotiations between the Syrian regime and opposition in Geneva.
Under a cessation of hostilities, Kirby said, people would hopefully be spared “any more images like the one of that young boy today in Aleppo.”
* Associated Press