Gunmen storm the hospital of a newborn rescued from Syria’s earthquake

BEIRUT (AP) – Gunmen stormed a hospital in northern Syria where a baby girl is being treated after she was born under the rubble of her family’s home destroyed by the earthquake, a hospital official said Tuesday, adding that the attackers killed the director of the clinic.

The officer denied reports on social media claiming Monday night’s attack was an attempt to kidnap the child, who was named Aya – Arabic for “a sign from God”. Aya has been in hospital for hours after the February 6 earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria. Her mother, father and four siblings died in the disaster.

Aya has been closely followed since birth and people from all over the world have offered to help her.

The officer, who remained anonymous for fear of reprisals, said the hospital’s director suspected a nurse who photographed Aya was planning to kidnap her and kicked him out of the hospital. The nurse returned hours later, accompanied by gunmen who beat the director. The director’s wife breastfed Aya.

When they arrived at the hospital, the gunmen told the local police officers who were protecting the girl that they were going after the director for firing her friend. They said they weren’t interested in Aya, according to the official.

Several people had appeared, falsely posing as Aya’s relatives, prompting the local police to put them under surveillance.

Aya’s mother died after giving birth after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria. Her father and four siblings also died in the earthquake.

According to her great-uncle Saleh al-Badran, Aya may be able to leave the hospital as early as Tuesday or Wednesday. He said the baby’s paternal aunt, who recently gave birth and survived the earthquake, will raise him.

Rescuers in the northern Syrian town of Jinderis discovered the dark-haired girl more than 10 hours after the quake, digging through the rubble of the five-story apartment building where her parents lived.

Buried under the concrete, the baby was still connected to her mother, Afraa Abu Hadiya, by her umbilical cord. The baby was taken to the hospital in nearby Afrin, where he has been cared for ever since.

The devastating quake, followed by a series of tremors that swept southeast Turkey and northern Syria, shattered many of the towns and cities inhabited by millions into concrete fragments and twisted metal. More than 35,000 people have been killed, a number expected to rise significantly as search teams find more bodies.

The earthquake destroyed dozens of housing units in the town of Jinderis, where Aya’s family has lived 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 the Islamic State group seized their village, said al-Badran, an uncle of Aya’s father.

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