Throughout the developing crises in Syria, compelling photographs that depict the suffering of its people have garnered attention and prompted action from officials and private citizens alike. After a bomb blast in rebel-held territory in Syria on Saturday, however, a man ordinarily seen behind the lens was spurred to action.
Photographer and activist Abd Alkader Habak was at the scene of the blast where 126 people, many of them children, lost their lives, CNN reported.
“The scene was horrible – especially seeing children wailing and dying in front of you,” Habak said to CNN. “So I decided along with my colleagues that we’d put our cameras aside and start rescuing injured people.”
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the majority of the victims were evacuees from two Shiite villages, taking advantage of guarantees of safe passage from the rebel-controlled areas to areas of Aleppo under government territory. As negotiations came to a halt, however, the convoy of buses with thousands of evacuees remained parked in the rebel-controlled Aleppo city.
As children left the buses to play out in the sun, they were approached by a man in a car who enticed them with potato chips, said one wounded girl in an Associated Press report. As children gathered around, the car detonated, killing at least 80 kids.
Habak, after being jarred by the blast, started helping the wounded. As he searched among the bodies, he said he found a boy who was still breathing.
“This child was firmly holding my hand and looking at me,” he said to CNN.
A nearby photographer managed to capture images of Habak cradling a victim as he ran toward an ambulance – his camera equipment dangling from the side.
Habak reportedly dropped the child off at the ambulance and went back to help others. As he found another lifeless child sprawled on the ground, he collapsed.
“I was overcome with emotion,” he said. “What I and my colleagues witnessed is indescribable.”
UN Secretary-General António Guterres released the following statement on Saturday following the attack:
We condemn the attack today in Rasheedin, west Aleppo, on 5,000 evacuees traveling from the towns of Foah and Kefraya to Government-controlled areas. We express our condolences to the families of the victims of the incident and wish those injured a speedy recovery.
The evacuations were being conducted in accordance with the agreement reached pursuant to the Four Towns agreement, covering Foah, Kefraya, Madaya and Zabadani. We call on the parties to ensure the safety and security of those waiting to be evacuated. Those responsible for today’s attack must be brought to justice.
So far, no group has claimed responsibility.
Rami Abdul Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said that he didn’t believe Syrian forces orchestrated the attack – he reasoned that government forces used different types of arms and didn’t need to attack government-backers.
The six-year Syrian conflict has so far claimed the lives of nearly 400,000 people and displaced millions.