The first picture has emerged of a heroic five-year-old girl who died trying to save her baby sister’s life in Syria after their home was bombed.
Heartbreaking footage showed Riham clinging on to the T-shirt of seven-month-old sister Tuqa in the town of Ariha, western Idlib province, while their distraught father tried and failed to reach them.
Riham and Tuqa both fell from the building after the pictures were taken, killing the heroic girl and leaving her baby sister in critical condition in hospital.
Their mother and another of their sisters were also killed in the strike, which was carried out by government forces attempting to recapture Idlib province from what it describes as jihadists.
Riham, five, was killed in Ariha, Syria, after government forces bombed her family home. She fell to her death while trying to save seven-month-old sister Tuqa, who is in critical condition
Heartbreaking images showed father Amjad al-Abdullah trying to reach Riham while she clings to Tuqa’s T-shirt, moments before the two girls fell
Riham died in the fall and Tuqa is now in critical condition. The girls’ mother and another sister were also killed in the bombing
It is not clear if the plane which carried out the strike belonged to Bashar al-Assad’s army, or allied Russian forces.
The UN said last week that more than 350 civilians had been killed and 330,000 forced to flee their homes since fighting in northern Syria escalated on 29 April.
The girl’s picture was tweeted by Charles Lister, director of the counter-extremism programme at the Washington-based Middle East Institute.
Father Amjad al-Abdullah was seen watching in horror with his head in his hands as he scrambled to save his daughters.
Seven-month-old Tuqa fell from the ledge and was left in a critical condition in an intensive care unit while Riham later died in hospital.
Moments after dramatic footage of the rescue attempt was filmed the building collapsed.
The girl’s were pulled from the ruins, but their mother Asmaa Naqouhl was killed at the scene and her other daughter is still being treated for her injuries.
Syria Civil Defence, the volunteer first responders known as the White Helmets, said they rescued another young man from the rubble of the house.
Footage of the Abdullah rushing to save his family went viral on social media after being posted by Syrian network SY-24.
Photographer Bashar al Sheikh, from Kafr Nabudah, was among the first on the scene after the attack and captured the dramatic moment.
Tuqa eventually fell from the damaged building and it collapsed moments later, killing Riham and her mother. Tuqa miraculously survived
The family were pulled from the rubble after the building collapsed. Mother Asmaa Naqouhl died as did her daughter Riham
He said: ‘The airstrikes had hit their building and they had fallen from the fifth floor to the ground. They were screaming and crying, asking rescue teams to save them.’
Syrian government forces, backed by its ally Russia, launched an offensive in April to retake strategic areas around Idlib and northern Hama as part of its bid to push the rebels from the country.
A spokesman for SY-24 told BBC News: ‘He [the photographer] couldn’t see anything at first because of the rubble and dust – but then he heard the sounds of babies, children, and the father.’
The Syrian Network for Human Rights estimates that more than 600 civilians have been killed by Russian or Assad regime strikes since April.
On Wednesday, 59 civilians, including five children and more than 100 injured, died in air strikes on at least three areas of Idlib province on Monday, according to the UN.
The province is one of the last rebel-held areas in Syria.
Mark Cutts, the UN’s deputy regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis said: ‘Some of the dead bodies were torn into pieces or burnt beyond recognition.
Two of the young girls were taken to hospital for treatment (pictured rescue teams picking through the rubble). More than 59 civilians were killed and 100 injured during separate airstrikes on Monday
‘Many of the victims were women and children, some of them suffering the most horrific injuries.
‘Rescue workers have been working all day pulling people out from under the rubble. Many remain buried. The search for survivors was continuing as darkness fell.’
Russian air strikes had killed 10 people from one family, including three children, in Khan-Sheikun, according to the UK-based monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The market town of Maaret al-Numan suffered some of the bloodiest strikes when around 40 people, including eight women and five children, were killed in blasts.
A number of images of wounded or dead children have highlighted the plight of Syrians during the seven-year civil war.
Aylan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian boy was pictured in media outlets around the world face down on a Turkish beach after drowning trying to flee the fighting.
An image of Omran Daqneesh, who was injured in Aleppo, also drew the world’s attention.