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It is with great sadness that Syria Relief must announce that a 6-year-old boy was killed by an Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) in Sarmin, Idlib on Thursday 31st December. Syria Relief, who operate the school that the child attended and the school which was 400 meters away from where the UXO was found, believe that the initial attack which caused the UXO was from a cluster munition attack on Wednesday New Year’s Day, January 1st 2020, 364 day earlier.
Syria Relief believe the child, 6-year-old Ghaith Hussein al-Alou, was searching for firewood with his 4-year-old sister and 5-year-old cousin after school hours (approx. 4pm local time), when he came across an unusual object which he believed to be a toy. He attempted to bring it home, but it exploded in his hands. He was treated first in Idlib and then brought to Turkey. However, despite efforts to save him, he died later in hospital. His sister and cousin were not critically injured and treated in hospitals locally.
Syria Relief, who operate 306 schools inside Syria for the benefit of over 100,000 children, understand that it is believed within the local community that the presence of the UXO is likely to be as a result of the January 1st 2020 cluster munition attack on the Syria Relief operated school in Sarmin, 400 meters away from where Ghaith found the UXO, which initially killed 12 people (now, possibly, 13). Whilst local authorities attempted to clear all remnants of the attack in the area, unfortunately not every UXO has been found.
Othman Moqbel, Syria Relief’s, Chief Executive says:
“For a year full of tragedy and challenges for Syria Relief and the people of Idlib, this has book-ended 2020 with two heartbreaking events. On January 1st, a Syria Relief school in Sarmin was hit by a cluster bomb attack. 9 were initially killed, with the death toll later rising to 12. This also caused widespread destruction and left many UXOs, of which the local authorities believed most were cleared. Sadly, 364 days later Ghaith Hussein al-Alou, who attends another of Syria Relief’s schools in Idlib, was by the area of the January 1st attack collecting firewood. With the innocence of a 6-year-old child, he thought he’d found a toy. It was in fact an unexploded bomb from a cluster munition, which the local community believes to have been from that New Year’s Day 2020 attack.
“Despite best efforts to save him, little Ghaith passed away in hospital later on, on New Year’s Eve 2020. Such a tragic end to a year with such a tragic start. Cluster munition attacks, aimed at civilians, aimed at children, still have the power to kill one year on.
“To the sweet, innocent mind of a 6-year-old boy, gathering firewood afterschool to keep his family warm in the winter months, he had no idea he had found a bomb. A bomb which was dropped on a school. A 6-year-old has such a vast imagination, but he could not have possibly imagined that this device was dropped with the intent of killing him and children like him.
“We are now further increasing our UXO awareness training across all of our schools and for the wider communities we work in. Because, unfortunately, the reality in Syria is that 6-year-olds desperately need to be trained on how to avoid being blown up. Too many children in Syria have been killed whilst going to school, sleeping in their beds or gathering firewood, like Ghaith.”
“All of the prayers of the Syria Relief team are with Ghaith, his family, the community in Sarmin and we hope that in the year 2021 we no longer have to announce the death of a child killed in Syria, which has become heartbreakingly common for us over the 10 years of the Syrian conflict.”
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