A picture and its story: Syrian pulled from rubble mourns 'martyred' young son

EASTERN GHOUTA, Syria (Reuters) - His brow dripping with blood and his skin caked with brick dust, Abu Abdallah was pulled out from under the rubble of his house near Damascus after it was blown up in an air raid.

He was lucky to survive the bomb that fell while he was having breakfast, dropped by one of the countless warplanes that emergency workers say have pounded the rebel-held Syrian enclave of Eastern Ghouta in recent days.

His three-year-old son was not so fortunate.

"We were sitting around, eating," said Abu Abdallah - a sobriquet meaning 'Abdallah's father' - as he recalled Tuesday's strike. "My son wanted to use the toilet, so his mother took him. Then the missile came down."

"In less than a minute, the entire house fell on top of us."

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Aftermath of a deadly airstrike in Ghouta, Syria
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Aftermath of a deadly airstrike in Ghouta, Syria

A man gets stuck under debris at a damaged site after an airstrike in the Saqba area, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria January 9, 2018.

(REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh/File photo)

Abu Abdallah, 26, who was rescued from under the rubble after an airstrike, is seen at a relative's home in the Saqba area, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria, January 11, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh)

 A man gets stuck under debris at a damaged site after an airstrike in the Saqba area, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria January 9, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh)

A man carries a wounded child, as he walks on debris of damaged buildings, after an airstrike in the Saqba area, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Men stand on the rubble of damaged buildings after an airstrike in the Saqba area, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh
A man holds a wounded child, as he stands on debris of damaged buildings, after an airstrike in the Saqba area, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh
EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / Two Syrian sisters run across the rubble to embrace after finding each other alive following an air strike on Hamouria, in the besieged rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area near Damascus, on January 9, 2018. Air strikes and artillery fire killed dozens of civilians in the besieged rebel enclave near Damascus targeted by near-daily regime bombardment, a war monitor said. / AFP PHOTO / ABDULMONAM EASSA / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by ABDULMONAM EASSA has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [Hamouria] instead of [Saqba]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo credit should read ABDULMONAM EASSA/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / A Syrian man prays following an air strike on Hamouria, in the besieged rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area near Damascus, on January 9, 2018. Air strikes and artillery fire killed dozens of civilians in the besieged rebel enclave near Damascus targeted by near-daily regime bombardment, a war monitor said. / AFP PHOTO / ABDULMONAM EASSA / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by ABDULMONAM EASSA has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [Hamouria] instead of [Saqba]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo credit should read ABDULMONAM EASSA/AFP/Getty Images)
EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / A volunteer from the Syrian Civil Defence (known as the White Helmets) reacts as he sits in the rubble following an air strike on Hamouria, in the besieged rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area near Damascus, on January 9, 2018. Air strikes and artillery fire killed over a dozen civilians in a besieged rebel enclave near Damascus targeted by near-daily regime bombardment, a war monitor said. / AFP PHOTO / ABDULMONAM EASSA / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by ABDULMONAM EASSA has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [Hamouria] instead of [Saqba]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo credit should read ABDULMONAM EASSA/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / Two Syrian sisters run across the rubble to embrace after finding each other alive following an air strike on Hamouria, in the besieged rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area near Damascus, on January 9, 2018. Air strikes and artillery fire killed dozens of civilians in the besieged rebel enclave near Damascus targeted by near-daily regime bombardment, a war monitor said. / AFP PHOTO / ABDULMONAM EASSA / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by ABDULMONAM EASSA has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [Hamouria] instead of [Saqba]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo credit should read ABDULMONAM EASSA/AFP/Getty Images)
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Relatives in the living room were also trapped in the debris. Everyone was screaming.

"I was under the rubble... and my head was bent down, I couldn't raise it," said Abu Abdallah, who declined to give his full name. "I said that's it, this will be the end of me."

Syrian troops and their allies have blockaded Eastern Ghouta, a densely populated pocket of satellite towns and farms, since 2013. It is the only remaining major rebel enclave near the Syrian capital.

Rescue workers arrived within minutes and then pulled his wife out, he recalled. "She told them there is a boy... and they got him out," he added. "Everybody in the house got out safely except the boy. He was martyred.

"Honestly, I keep remembering the boy when they pulled him out... and the pressure with everything on top of me."

Abu Abdallah, 26, comes from the eastern Ghouta village of Marj al-Sultan, which the Syrian army recaptured from insurgents in late 2015. He had moved deeper into the enclave to the town of Saqba with his family to try to escape the bombing.

"Now it's still not clear what we will do," he said. His family is staying with relatives while he recovers from a head injury and a back strain.

Home to around 400,000 civilians, the Eastern Ghouta enclave faces a humanitarian catastrophe, the U.N. human rights chief said this week.

Syrian government forces and their allies have killed at least 85 civilians there since the end of December, including 21 women and 30 children, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein also said.

"The (world) should have mercy on these children and women because they have nothing to do with the fighting," Abu Abdallah said. "If they want to fight, let them go fight on the frontlines. But why are they bombing us?"

(Writing by Beirut bureau; editing by John Stonestreet)

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