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Grief and stitches at Damascus hospital after rocket attack

Inside a hospital in Syria’s capital, Ilham slaps her head in grief after her daughter stepped out to buy her a Mother’s Day present but never came back.

Ilham’s daughter was among 35 people killed in a rebel rocket attack on a shopping area in a Damascus suburb on Tuesday, the eve of Mother’s Day.

“I don’t want a present. I don’t want anything,” cried the woman in her 50s, dressed in a long black robe.

“O Lord, I just want to hear back from her,” she said, surrounded by mourning relatives.

The rocket was fired on a busy shopping area in Jaramana known for its stores selling affordable clothes and food.

It was one of the deadliest rebel rocket attacks to hit the capital in Syria’s seven-year war.

It came as government forces press a deadly assault to retake control of the last rebel bastion on the capital’s doorstep.

Mother’s Day falls on March 21 in Syria like other parts of the Arab world to coincide with the start of spring.

But the Damascus hospital’s corridors were covered in blood on Tuesday night, as the dead and wounded were rushed in.

Inside one room, forensic doctors examined bodies laid out on two dozen beds after they were unable to fit in the hospital’s mortuary.

Outside, women wailed and hugged each other as they waited to hear confirmation that their loved ones had died or to see their faces for a last time.

The hospital’s ground floor had been turned into an emergency unit, with a large number of doctors tending to the wounded.

A doctor looked after a half-naked man, covered in bloody bandages, as his relatives watched on.

‘Lifeless corpse’

Nearby was a skinny young boy in a red tracksuit, with his head and knee swathed in white gauze.

A father tried to hold his child still as a member of the medical staff stitched his wound.

In the courtyard, a throng of civilians had clustered, panicked and looking for the missing.

Umm Hisham was out shopping with her son and daughter when the rocket ploughed down.

“May God never forgive them. The rocket fell as we were shopping… We were standing in front of the sweets shop,” she said.

She still remembers what her son said as they headed out to the shops: “I want to make you happy,” he had said.

But the shopping trip soon turned into a nightmare, as she had her leg amputated and has heard no news from her children.

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