A photograph of a little boy, who sits dazed and bloody in the back of an ambulance after apparently surviving an airstrike in Aleppo, has highlighted the desperation of the Syrian civil war and the struggle for control of the city.
The child is reported to be five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, one of five children injured late on Wednesday by a military strike on the city of 300,000 – the site of the most decisive battle in the civil war.
The image of him sitting in an ambulance, covered head to toe with dust and so disoriented as to seem barely aware of an open wound on his forehead, has been shared thousands of times on social media.
The startling image is a screenshot from a video shot and circulated by the Aleppo Media Center from inside the Syrian province. The anti-government activist group has been contacted to confirm details about when and where the footage was shot.
The group posted the clip to YouTube late on Wednesday local time, reportedly shortly after Omran was injured.
The graphic footage shows the boy being lifted from the rubble of the damaged building and taken to an ambulance, where he sits disoriented before being taken to hospital.
The Telegraph reported that Omran was treated for his head injury at the M10 hospital and released later that night; about 12 other children, all under the age of 15, had been treated there on Wednesday.
The initial photo of Omran tweeted by Telegraph reporter Raf Sanchez had been retweeted nearly 10,000 times on Twitter, with many users saying he was just one of many children in Aleppo caught up in the conflict.
David Baines, a campaigner for UK Labour, remarked on the “horror” in Aleppo: “That little boy in the back of the ambulance, alone and dazed. Bloody awful. What can we do??”
“We need a political & social resolution to conflict in Syria & Iraq,” tweeted Lydia Shelly, an Australian lawyer and community advocate. “We are losing a whole generation of children.”
The fight for control of Aleppo has intensified in recent weeks following gains made by rebel groups battling the forces of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.
Russia began its campaign to prop up al-Assad last year.
The M10 hospital itself was hit by airstrike in early August, an attack that was captured on CCTV footage.
Last week, an alliance of Syrian rebels and Islamist groups broke the longstanding government siege on the eastern half of the city.
Since then, the frequency and intensity of airstrikes has reportedly increased, despite an announcement from Russia that action over Aleppo would be suspended for three hours a day.
Senior military officials from Russia and the US – which wants to see Assad step down – are in talks to attempt to find a political solution to end the civil war.
On Monday, Russian news agencies quoted the defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, as saying: “We are now in a very active phase of negotiations with our American colleagues.”
“We are moving step by step closer to a plan – and I’m only talking about Aleppo here – that would really allow us to start fighting together to bring peace so that people can return to their homes in this troubled land.”
On Tuesday, Russia launched airstrikes in Aleppo and two other provinces from a base in western Iran, the main regional ally of the al-Assad regime.