Earthquake brings new devastation to Syria, ravaged by civil war

People in rebel-held areas have spent almost a decade besieged and bombarded by the Syrian government and its Russian allies. In 2017, Atareb — around ten miles from the Turkish border — was hit by a series of airstrikes that killed dozens, including several children.

Almost six years later, Alhamdo could not help but recall the horrors the town endured in the past.

“This area five years ago witnessed a very harsh attacks from the Syrian regime warplanes,” Alhamdo said of the three airstrikes that hit the market in Atareb, west of Aleppo, in Nov. 2017.

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

A United Nations inquiry concluded the strikes were carried out by the Russian air force. Moscow denies targeting civilians in Syria.

“Those houses that were effected at the time have now [fallen] to the ground,” Alhamdo added.

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

 “What can one vehicle, some few people working with their bare hands, [do] for those who are under the rubble,” said Alhamdo. “Unfortunately they can do nothing.”

The quake hit a part of Syria’s northwest that is divided between government-held territory and the country’s last remaining rebel-controlled enclave, likely complicating efforts to deliver aid.

Around 4.5 million people are packed into the area, many of them living in dire poverty, having been displaced from other parts of the country by the war.

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