Syria: Gunmen stormed a hospital in northern Syria where a baby girl is being cared for after being born in the rubble of a family home destroyed by an earthquake, a hospital official said Tuesday. The assailants beat up the director of the clinic.

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. earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria. Her mother, father, and four siblings died in the disaster.

Aya has been closely watched since her birth and people from all over the world have offered to help her.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said the hospital director suspected that a nurse who was taking pictures of the babysitter was planning to kidnap her and kick her out of the hospital. The officer said the nurse returned hours later and the gunmen thrashed the director. The director’s wife is breastfeeding Aaya, her doctor said earlier.

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 claiming 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.

The dark-haired girl was discovered by rescue workers in the northern Syrian town of Jindris more than 10 hours after the earthquake struck as they dug through the rubble of the five-story apartment building where her parents lived. Buried under concrete, the baby girl was still attached to her mother, Afrah Abu Hadiya, by her umbilical cord. The girl was taken to a hospital in nearby Afrin, where she is being looked after.

The devastating earthquake was followed by a series of aftershocks that rattled southeastern Turkey and northern Syria, reducing many towns and cities with millions of people to concrete and crumpled metal. More than 35,000 people were killed, a toll expected to rise significantly as search parties found more bodies. The earthquake destroyed dozens of housing units in the town of 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 the Islamic State group captured their village, said al-Badran, an uncle of Aya’s father.

By Archana

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