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What the world must see: Girl injured in Yemen war tries to open swollen eyes

Buthaina Muhammad Mansour is the sole survivor in her family of eight after an airstrike.

world Updated: Aug 31, 2017 16:59 IST
Agencies, Sanaa
Yemen war,Yemen,Saudi coalition Yemen
Buthaina Muhammad Mansour is the only survivor in her family of eight after an air strike hit their apartment in Sanaa, Yemen. (Twitter)

A year ago, the haunting image of 4-year-old Omran -- his face covered in blood and dust -- sitting in an ambulance after an airstrike hit Aleppo captured the brutality of Syria’s six-year conflict.

Last week, it was the image of a girl in Yemen that showed the tragedy of war.

Buthaina Muhammad Mansour is the sole survivor in her family of eight after an airstrike tore through their apartment in Yemen’s capital Sanaa last week.

Photos circulating on social media websites showed rescuers pulling Buthaina, believed to be four or five, out of the debris.

Buthaina has become an anti-war symbol. Twitter users condemned the strike, with one saying with one saying what happened to Buthaina was an “absolute disgrace” and that everyone was “turning their eyes away”.

Buthaina Muhammad Mansour, believed to be four or five, sits on a bed at a hospital after she survived a Saudi-led air strike that killed eight of her family members in Sanaa, Yemen August 26, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah (REUTERS)

Doctors said Buthaina suffered from concussion and skull fractures but she will pull through.

But Buthaina doesn’t know her family didn’t survive. Disoriented, she was calling out for her uncle Mounir, who was killed in the attack, at the hospital on Saturday.

Another uncle Saleh Muhammad Saad told Reuters Mounir had rushed to the family’s house when Buthaina’s father called him at 2am to say war planes were bombing their neighbourhood in Sanaa’s Faj Attan district. He never returned.

By the time Saleh got to the house, it was a ruin of broken concrete blocks and wooden planks. Hearing survivors groaning from beneath the rubble, he battled to free them.

“I could hear the shouts of one of their neighbours from under the rubble, and tried to remove the rubble from on top of (Buthaina’s father) and his wife, but I couldn’t. They died,” he said.

“We lifted the rubble and saw first her brother Ammar, who was three, and her four sisters, all of them dead. I paused a little and just screamed out from the pain. But I pulled myself together, got back there and then heard Buthaina calling.”

He said her survival had given him some solace as he mourned the rest of the family.

“Her sister Raghad always used to come up and hug me and kiss me when I visited. I used to say to her, ‘Come on, that’s enough.’ And she would say ‘Oh no it isn’t!’ and just keep hugging and kissing.”

The Saudi-led Arab military coalition last week admitted responsibility for the air strike in the Yemeni capital that killed 14 civilians, describing it as a “technical mistake”. Witnesses and medics said at least six children were killed in the strike that toppled residential buildings.

A man carries Buthaina Muhammad Mansour, rescued from the site of a Saudi-led air strike that killed eight of her family members in Sanaa. (Reuters Photo)

The coalition entered Yemen’s war in 2015 in support of the government against the Iran-backed rebels, who seized Sanaa the previous year after forming a fragile alliance with troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

First Published: Aug 31, 2017 16:43 IST