Chinese state television has suggested images of an injured Syrian boy that have provoked horror around the world were faked as part of a “propaganda war” to enable Western intervention in the country’s civil war.
The Syrian regime has denied responsibility for the air strike that injured Omran Daqneesh on Wednesday, killing nine people including his 10-year-old brother.
Bashar al-Assad’s allies have been quick to cast aspersions on harrowing images that showed Omran and his siblings being pulled from the rubble of their family home, with the little boy sitting dazed in the back of an ambulance, covered in dust and blood.
CCTV, China’s state broadcaster, ran the footage on Saturday with the subtitle: “Video suspected of being fake.”
“Critics have suggested that [the video] is part of a propaganda war, aimed at creating a ‘humanitarian’ excuse for Western countries to become involved in Syria,” the voiceover to Saturday’s report said, according to a translation by AFP.
“The workers did not make rapid rescue efforts, and instead quickly set up a camera.”
CCTV alleged that rescue volunteers with the Syrian Civil Defence group, known as the White Helmets, were of “questionable independence”.
The allegations echoed comments made by the Russian military, which started its intervention in support of President Assad in September and has since been accused of killing thousands of civilians in air strikes.
Major General Igor Konashenkov claimed images of the strike on Omran’s family home indicated a blast less powerful than an air-fired missile and may have been caused by rebel mortars or IEDs.
He accused the media of committing a “moral crime” by publishing “formulaic propaganda material” created by pro-rebel activists.
The footage of Omran spread around the world last week, driving fresh international calls for a 48-hour ceasefire in Aleppo and other besieged town and cities ravaged by the Syrian civil war.
Pro-Russian and Syrian activists have been discrediting the images by alleging that the photographer has links to an extremist group that beheaded a child earlier this year. The allegations are unconfirmed.
China has been moving towards closer co-operation with the Syrian regime alongside Russia and Iran, with a leading official travelling to Damascus last week.
Guan Youfei, director of the Office for International Military Cooperation, met the Syrian defence minister and a Russian general, according to state media.
"China and Syria's militaries have a traditionally friendly relationship, and China's military is willing to keep strengthening exchanges and cooperation with Syria's military," he said in a statement.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies