Syrian boy horrifically maimed in Aleppo shelling starts new life in Wollongong, Australia.


Aicha Al Shebli says life in the Syrian city of Aleppo was wonderful before the war.

Her family had all the privileges of a modern country — doctors, schools and relative safety.

But early one morning in April 2013, Ms Al Shebli said their lives changed in an instant.

“I was in the house, in the kitchen making dough for bread,” she told Lateline.

“It was early in the morning. The kids were outside, playing amongst the sheep.

“It was a nice warm day but then both sides started shelling, the government side and the [Free Syrian Army] side.”

One of Ms Al Shebli’s sons, Khaled, was inside, sick in bed.

When a rocket hit their house it sent a fireball into his bedroom and he suffered horrific burns to his face.

“I believe something in the rocket was toxic, that’s what burned his face off. The rest of his body was covered up and only the face was exposed,” Ms Al Shebli said.

Khaled Al Shebli has started school again since his latest operation. (Supplied)

The family still does not know which side fired the rocket that maimed their son.

After the shelling they fled to a refugee camp in north Lebanon where they spent the next nine months.

While there, the family came to the attention of an Australian aid worker, who took their plight to the Australian ambassador who helped facilitate three operations for Khaled in Beirut.

In December last year, the Al Sheblis were granted refugee status in Australia and moved to Wollongong, south of Sydney.

A few weeks ago, Khaled, now seven, had the first of at least five more operations he will undergo in Australia.

The nose reconstruction has helped him breathe easier, and just this week Khaled had his first day back at school.

Khaled Al Shebli and his brothers
PHOTO: Khaled Al Shebli (c) has at least five more operations to go. (Supplied)

Khaled’s father Yunis said the family was eternally grateful to Lebanon for giving them refuge, and to Australia for giving them a second chance in life.

“The lifestyle is good here and as long as you follow the laws you will have a great life,” he said.

“No-one will bother you. The schooling and medical help is all provided and everything runs smoothly.”

Mr Al Shebli said they were happy in Australia and people had tried to make them feel welcome.

“We are simple people, we never thought it would come to this. We only want a normal life,” he said.

He doubted they would ever return to Syria.

“Syria will be totally destroyed by the looks of it,” he said.

Mr Al Shebli said it was terribly depressing to see the city he grew up in destroyed.

“Some of my family members have been slaughtered and the others are scattered across the world as refugees. It’s very sad,” he said.

“Also, when I think of my parents, it breaks my heart.”

Until Lateline told them, the Al Sheblis were unaware that Australian forces had this week started bombing their homeland.

“The Government knows best what they are doing. We are not politically involved in stuff like that,” Mr Al Shebli said.

“They will be bombing Daesh. Bomb them, kill them. They are the ones causing all the problems there.”

Ms Al Shebli said they ultimately hoped there would be peace in Syria, but for now her main focus was on the family’s new future.

“My main concerns now are my son’s recovery, my kids’ happiness, their education and their settling in here,” she said.

This post originally appeared on ABC News.


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