ALEPPO, Syria: Ramadan had just an hour left to go, but Bashar Sarmini, the thyme seller of Aleppo, and his three sons never saw the sun set on the month of fasting.
A rapid barrel-bombing raid by Syrian regime planes killed them all in the rebel-held district of Shaar in the divided northern city, the Syrian observatory for Human Rights reported.
“At least nine civilians, three of them children, were killed by barrel bombs (dropped by regime aircraft) in Shaar,” an eastern district, the monitoring body said.
The Britain-based group, which relies on an extensive network of medical, military and activist sources on the ground, warned the death toll could rise because of the large number of people of seriously wounded.
“Six more civilians, including three children and a woman, were killed in mortar shelling by rebels” of the government-held district of Jabiriyeh, the Observatory said.
An AFP photographer who visited the district on Monday was able to confirm Sarmini was among the dead, along with his three sons, Ahmad, Mohamad and Abdel Hadi.
Sarmini was something of a local character, making a living by selling za’atar, the local herb with a thyme-like flavour highly-prized in Levantine cuisine, and much sought-after in the region.
Za’atar has long green leaves, grows along the slopes of the Syrian-Lebanese mountains, and the traditional za’atar shops are considered special in this part of the world. “The barrel bomb dropped Sunday night an hour before Iftar (the end of the fasting) at a time when everyone was doing their last-minute shopping ready for the feast (of Eid al-Fitr). People were stunned and were just crying quietly to themselves,” AFP photographer Zein Al Rifai said.