BEIRUT: Gunmen stormed a hospital in north Syria where a baby girl is receiving care after being born under the rubble of her family’s earthquake-shattered home, a hospital official said on Tuesday, adding that the attackers beat the clinic’s director.
The official denied reports on social media claiming that the Monday night attack was an attempt to kidnap the infant, named Aya — Arabic for “a sign from God.”
Aya has been at the hospital since hours after the February 6 earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria. Her mother, father and four siblings died in the disaster.
Aya has been closely followed since her birth and people from around the world have been offering to help her.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said the hospital’s director had suspected that a nurse who was taking pictures of Aya was planning to kidnap her and kicked him out of the hospital. The nurse returned hours later accompanied by gunmen who beat up the director, the official said. The director’s wife has been breast-feeding Aya, her doctor said previously.
Upon arrival at the hospital, the gunmen told local police officers protecting the girl that they were going after the director for firing their friend and were not interested in Aya, according to the official.
Several people had shown up falsely claming to be Aya’s relatives, prompting local policemen to guard her, the doctor said previously.
Aya’s mother died after giving birth to her in the aftermath of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria. Her father and four siblings were also killed in the quake.
Aya may be able to leave the hospital as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday, according to her great-uncle, Saleh Al Badran. He said the baby’s paternal aunt, who recently gave birth and survived the quake, will raise her.
Rescue workers in the northern Syrian town of Jinderis discovered the dark-haired baby girl more than 10 hours after the quake hit, as they were digging through the wreckage of the five-story apartment building where her parents lived.
Buried under the concrete, the baby still was connected by her umbilical cord to her mother, Afraa Abu Hadiya. The baby was rushed to the hospital in nearby Afrin, where she has been cared for since.
Aya’s father, Abdullah Turki Mleihan, was originally from the village of Khsham in eastern Deir Al Zor province, but left in 2014 after the Islamic State group captured their village, said al-Badran, an uncle of Aya’s father.