He lived with his mother, father, brother and sister in the Syrian city of Aleppo, a contact on the ground tells CNN.
He and his family were injured when their house was destroyed by an airstrike Wednesday. Miraculously, everyone in his immediate family survived. Activists blame the Syrian regime and Russia for the bombings.
Aleppo, in northern Syria, has been besieged for years during that country’s civil war. Thousands of people have been killed there, including 4,500 children, and many lives have been upended.
Omran’s family is among them.
One boy’s story
The haunting, heartbreaking video of Omran, posted by the Aleppo Media Center, has been circulating on social media.
It shows a civil defense worker carrying the little boy to an ambulance. His cartoon character T-shirt is covered in dust, the left side of his face is bloody. He is silent despite the cacophony around him.
He was not crying at any point during the rescue.
“He was in extreme shock,” according to a spokesman for the Aleppo Media Center, an activist group.
He looks dazed as he sits on the vehicle’s orange seat, his hands on his lap, as he waits to be treated, as he waits for somebody to help him.
He raises his left hand to his eye and feels the area around his temple as if he has been hit there. He wipes his face and looks down at the blood.
But Omran has had a lucky escape — he appears to have been one of the first pulled out of the rubble before his parents, the Aleppo Media Center says.
Omran’s story repeated every day
“The truth is that the image you see today is repeated every day in Aleppo,” said Mustafa al Sarouq, a cameraman with the Aleppo Media Center, who filmed the video. He spoke to CNN’s Nima Elbagir via Skype.
“Every day we cover these massacres and these war crimes in Aleppo. When we go to the places that have been bombed, regime planes circle around and bomb it again to kill rescue workers that are helping civilians. They kill these people who are trying to rescue people.”
It took nearly an hour to dig Omran out from underneath the rubble, an activist tells CNN. He and other rescuers used flashlights to bring out several people trapped beneath the bombed-out building. Video from the night scene shows another little boy, even younger than Omran, being placed on a stretcher on the same ambulance. A third shell-shocked man stumbles out of the collapsed building and walks into the ambulance.
Omran has now been released from the hospital.
The doctor who treated him said his injury was light compared to the others wounded in the bombing. He was discharged after two hours.
“Omran was in the same daze and shock you saw he had when he was in the ambulance,” said Dr. Mohammedd, a surgeon in Aleppo, who doesn’t want to use his last name for security reasons. “He was in the same situation, he did not cry at all.”
His mother and brother, who were seriously injured, were smuggled out of Aleppo, and the family is now staying with relatives, the activist tells CNN.
“World is silent”
On Wednesday, three more people died and at least 12 others were wounded in the rebel-held al Qaterchi neighborhood in eastern Aleppo, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Aleppo Media Center. One of those killed is believed to be a relative of Omran’s family.
More than 18,000 civilians have been killed in Aleppo province from March 15, 2011 through August 18, 2016, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
More than 4,500 of those killed were children under the age of 18, the Observatory said Thursday, after the video of Omran went viral.
“The whole world is silent to these crimes in Aleppo against women and children,” said Sarouq.
“There are thousands of children like Omran who are being bombed daily, killed daily… Everyday this city is hit with every type of weapon, with every type of crime. The living conditions are terrible. The only route out of the city is totally unusable, it is shut. We call on the whole world this regime and these militias that are killing children and specifically the children of Aleppo. These crimes must be stopped in Aleppo.”
A terrible choice
Some 1.5 to 2 million people still remain in Aleppo, once considered Syria’s largest city. It is now divided into rebel-held and government-held areas. Those still there face a terrible choice.
Should they stay in a city subjected to relentless bombing and risk their lives and those of their children?
Or embark on a perilous journey across the sea, and endanger the lives of their families?
Last year another image of a Syrian boy, just 2 years old, blew up social media.
The photo of Alan Kurdi’s body lying on a Turkish beach
galvanized the world and became a symbol of the migrant crisis in Europe.
A Sudanese artist based in Doha, Qatar, captured the two stories that symbolize the suffering of millions into one heart-wrenching image.