The devastated mother of a five-year-old girl killed in a Russian air strike in Syria has told how a family holiday to see relatives turned into a massacre that left three of her loved ones dead.
Suheer, who did not want her second name to be published, spoke to The Guardian from Turkey, where the remaining family have now returned to in an attempt to reach safety.
Her daughter, Raghat, died in alleged Russian bombing in October, alongside her grandfather and cousin.
The family fled the brutal conflict to live in Turkey in 2011 but returned for a brief visit to see Raghat’s grandparents for Eid, reassured that the rebel-held area they lived in had not been targeted by bombing raids.
“I only took my children back to Syria for six days,” Suheer said. “We were supposed to be going home the next day. My husband never saw his daughter again.”
Video: Russian air strikes hit Syria as 'civilians killed'
Raghat had been out shopping with her aunt when they returned to her grandparents’ house in the town of Habeet, in the rebel-held province of Idlib, where she died little over an hour later.
Photos captured some of the little girl’s last moments, showing her posing happily in a new polka dot dress and new bracelet.
Shortly afterwards, the family heard military jets approaching and Rahad’s grandmother Zahra, scooped the girl up and ran for a shelter in the garden.
Relatives told the Associated Press that as Zahra handed the girl to a cousin in the shelter, the missiles hit the house.
The grandmother survived with serious injuries and burns but her husband was found on the top floor of the building with a fatal stomach wound. He died in hospital.
Raghat was found face down, with severe damage to her skull, held in her cousin Ahmed’s arms. The family believe he tried to shield the girl as a blast hit the family’s shelter and died almost instantly.
Her mother was in another part of the house when the missile struck and survived uninjured.
The air strike on 1 October came just two days after the Russian military started its bombing campaign in Syria, where it has been criticised for targeting all opponents of President Assad, rather than Isis and jihadist groups being bombed by the US-led coalition.
Raghat’s grandfather, Abdul-Razzaq, was a defector from Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian forces who founded the Ahbab al-Mustafa Brigade, one of the early factions that made up the Free Syrian Army.
His family said he retired and stopped all rebel activities earlier this year and it was unclear if he was the target of the attack.
The Russian military has denied claims of hundreds of civilian casualties, saying they use various intelligence sources to plan each strike to make sure there is no collateral damage.
In pictures: Syria air strikes (2014)
In pictures: Syria air strikes (2014)
Syrian citizens check a damaged house that targeted by the coalition airstrikes, in the village of Kfar Derian, a base for the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, a rival of the Isis group, between the northern province of Aleppo and Idlib
A Syrian boy (L) looking at a destroyed car that activists say was targeted by the coalition airstrikes, in the village of Kfar Derian, a base for the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, a rival of the Islamic State group, between the northern province of Aleppo and Idlib
Parts of a missile that activists say was fired by coalition airstrikes, in the village of Kfar Derian, a base for the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, a rival of the Isis group, between the northern province of Aleppo and Idlib
Tthe guided-missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) launching Tomahawk cruise missiles against Isis targets
The USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) launches a Tomahawk cruise missiles in the Red Sea, to conduct strike missions against Isis group targets in Syria
The guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) launching a Tomahawk cruise missile against Isis targets in Syria, as seen from the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) in the Arabian Gulf
US navy sailors standing watch on the bridge while Tomahawk cruise missiles are launched against Isis targets in Syria, aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58), in the Arabian Gulf
The US-led airstrikes in Syria against Isis targets in and around the city of Raqqa
A fighter from the Isis group holds a piece of what the IS is saying is a US drone that crashed into a communications tower in the Syrian city of Raqqa
Fighters from the Isis organisation pray at the spot where the jihadist group said a US drone crashed into a communications tower in the Syrian city of Raqqa
Fighters from the Isis group load a van with parts that they said was a US drone that crashed into a communications tower in the Syrian city of Raqqa
Fighters from the Isis group load a van with parts that they said was a US drone that crashed into a communications tower in Raqqa
Fighters from the Isis group gesture as they load a van with parts that they said was a US drone that crashed into a communications tower in Raqqa. A US-led coalition on carried out its first air strikes and missile attacks against jihadist positions in Syria, with Damascus saying it had been informed by Washington before the operation began
A Syrian man rides his bike past a communications tower that was destroyed after a US drone crashed into it, according to fighters with the Isis group, in the Syrian city of Raqqa
People inspect a shop damaged after what Isis militants say was a U.S. drone crashed into a communication station nearby in Raqqa
A man holds the remains of what Isis militants say was a U.S. drone which crashed in Raqqa
Resident gather in the back of a van the remains of what Isis militants say was a drone which crashed in Raqqa
A man inspects the remains of what Isismilitants say was a U.S. drone which crashed into a communication tower in Raqqa
A man inspects the remains of what Isis militants say was a U.S. drone which crashed in Raqqa
But Raghat’s death was documented by the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, as well as activists in the area and other groups who distinguish Russian air strikes by planes’ formation and altitude, as well as the ordnance used.
The Observatory reported that three civilians were killed in Habeet on the day and opposition activist Hadi al-Abdullah said listed a five-year-old girl among the dead, telling Al Jazeera: “The destruction caused by the strike was massive. A two-storey house was completely flattened to the ground.”
In its own list of targets, the Russian Defence Ministry listed the town, claiming it struck “a facility used by the rebels as a temporary base and ammunition depot”.
American authorities have also admitted civilian casualties and continue to investigate several alleged incidents. There have been no reports of collateral damage in the British air campaign that started earlier this week against Isis in Syria.
Additional reporting by APReuse content