Gunmen storm hospital of newborn girl saved amid earthquake rubble in Syria

Infant girl in an incubator
A baby girl who was born under the rubble of a earthquake-leveled building receives treatment in an incubator at a hospital in the Syrian town of Afrin.
(Ghaith Alsayed / Associated Press)

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 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 Feb. 6. magnitude 7.8 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 help.


The hospital official, who spoke 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 director’s wife has been breast-feeding Aya.

Upon arrival at the hospital, the gunmen told police officers protecting the girl that they were going after the director for firing their friend. They said they were not interested in Aya, according to the official.

Several people had shown up falsely claiming to be Aya’s relatives, prompting local police to guard her, the doctor said previously.

American and Turkish search and rescue teams pull a teenage boy alive from a quake-damaged building in Hatay, Turkey.

Feb. 13, 2023

Aya’s mother died after giving birth to her in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Aya may be able to leave the hospital as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday, according to her great-uncle, Saleh Badran. He said the baby’s paternal aunt, who also 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.


In the days since the magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Turkey, search-and-rescue teams, including one from Los Angeles County, have been a ubiquitous presence.

Feb. 12, 2023

The devastating quake, followed by a series of aftershocks, reduced many of the towns and cities inhabited by millions of people to fragments of concrete and twisted metal. More than 35,000 people were killed, a toll expected to rise as search teams find more bodies.

The earthquake destroyed dozens of housing units in Jinderis, where Aya’s family had been living since 2018.

Aya’s father, Abdullah Turki Mleihan, was originally from the village of Khsham in eastern Deir el-Zour province, but left in 2014 after Islamic State captured their village, said Badran, an uncle of Aya’s father.