Earthquake brings further devastation to civil war-ravaged Syria

Residents of rebel-held areas have spent nearly a decade besieged and bombarded by the Syrian government and its Russian allies. In 2017, Atareb – about 16 km from the Turkish border – was hit by a series of airstrikes that left dozens dead, including several children.

Almost six years later, Alhamdo couldn’t help but reminisce about the horrors the city has endured in the past.

“Five years ago, this area was the scene of a very violent attack by the Syrian regime’s fighter jets,” Alhamdo said of the three airstrikes that hit the Atareb market, in west of Aleppo in November 2017.

At least 84 people were killed in the attack, including five children, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors Syria’s civil war through a network of sources on the ground.

A United Nations investigation concluded that the strikes were carried out by the Russian Air Force. Moscow denies targeting civilians in Syria.

“These houses that were made at the time now have [fallen] on the ground,” added Alhamdo.

Videos showed houses, mosques and shops reduced to rubble and rusting metal wires protruding from the ground. A single excavator worked to clear debris alongside a small group of people in the town’s main market.

“What can a vehicle, a few people working with their bare hands, [do] for those who are under the rubble? said Alhamdo. “Unfortunately, they can’t do anything.”

The quake hit a part of northwestern Syria that is split between government-held territory and the country’s last rebel-held enclave, likely complicating aid delivery efforts.

Around 4.5 million people are crammed into the area, many of whom live in extreme poverty, having been displaced from other parts of the country by the war.


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