‘Like a scene from the apocalypse’: Parachute-borne bombs hit elementary-school complex

 An elementary school after Wednesday’s airstrike. Photo courtesy of Abu Musa’b a-Souri.

AMMAN: More than two dozen children and teachers were killed in southern Idlib province on Wednesday when regime warplanes struck a block of elementary school buildings with parachute-borne bombs, residents told Syria Direct

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces ramped up airstrikes on southern Idlib province after opposition fighters began gaining ground in an offensive launched in nearby northern Hama province late this August. Government ground forces, backed by airpower, have since rolled back much of the rebel advance.

Neither Syrian nor Russian state news reported Wednesday’s airstrikes.

“The planes dropped eight parachute bombs, causing a massive explosion,” said Moti’a Jalal, a Civil Defense volunteer from nearby Maarat a-Numan and a member of the team who responded to the airstrike in the village of Hass.

“Right now, there are 26 people confirmed dead,” he told Syria Direct on Wednesday.

 A scene from Hass on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Abed Kontar.

The death toll is likely to rise, doctors said, as many of the airstrike victims are in critical condition, and first responders continue to remove bodies from the complex of five different schools that educated up to 900 children until Wednesday. A total of 18 students and eight teachers were killed, Munther Khalil, the head of the opposition’s Health Directorate in Idlib province told Syria Direct.

“We do not have anyone who specializes in wounds this intense,” Hussein, a doctor in the nearby town of Maarat a-Numan who is treating many of the wounded, told Syria Direct. More than 30 people are in critical condition,” he said, adding that around 80 wounded people were brought from Hass to his hospital.

“There were dozens of dead bodies,” said eyewitness and Civil Defense volunteer Jalal.

“Students, teachers and passersby from the street—it looked like a scene out of the apocalypse.” 

Alaa Nassar

Alaa was forced to flee Damascus with her family because of the pressure from the Syrian regime in 2013. She was a student of Arabic Language & Literature at the University of Damascus. She came to Syria Direct because she hopes to find a new direction in her life and to show the world what is happening in her country.

Ahmad al-Majareesh

Ahmad was studying Arabic Literature at Damascus University when the war intensified in 2012. Originally from Daraa, Ahmad wants to write about people in his home province.

Madeline Edwards

Madeline Edwards graduated from the College of Charleston with a bachelor’s degree in International Studies and Political Science in 2016. She was a Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) recipient in Arabic in 2013. Her studies have brought her to Jordan, Palestine and Turkey.

Kristen Demilio

Kristen Gillespie Demilio has more than 10 years of experience reporting from the Middle East while based in Amman. She regularly contributed to news outlets including CBS News Radio, NPR, The Jerusalem Report and PBS and is a graduate of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism as well as the Institut Français des Etudes Arabes in Damascus.