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Badly burned and living in agony, one toddler's story exposes the horror of Syrian war which refugees are fleeing

As tens of thousands of refugees flee the war-ravaged streets of Syria to head to Europe, ITV News met one family torn apart by a devastating airstrike in their home town.

The strike in the rebel-held town of Douma last month was carried out by the air force of President Bashar al-Assad. It left two-year-old Yousef Rajab severely burned and close to death, while his mother and brother were both killed.

ITV News Middle East correspondent Geraint Vincent reports. Warning: his report contains images of Yousef's injuries you may find distressing.

For more than two years, I have been sifting through video pictures of the horrors of Syria’s war. Twice in that time have I seen footage that I have not been able to cast from my mind.

The first was of a young girl, regaining consciousness in a field hospital after a chemical weapons attack in eastern Damascus.

She was frightened and bewildered, asking doctors to hold her, and shouting out to them: "I am alive!" as though she was trying to convince herself.

This was the second time.

Yousef Rajab is a two-year-old boy, recovering from terrible injuries he received after an airstrike on the apartment block where he lived, also in eastern Damascus.

Yousef Rajab suffered horrendous burns in the airstrike Credit: ITV News
Yousef lost his mother and brother in the explosion Credit: ITV News

When the missile hit, the gas cylinder in Yousef’s family’s flat exploded and their home was engulfed in flames.

Yousef received 45 per cent burns.

His face is now covered with red sores and blackened scars. His arms and legs are wrapped in bandages which are stained with blood.

ITV News filmed him being treated on the ward of the field hospital.

He constantly cries out in pain.

The doctors try to get him to move his limbs, and Yousef whimpers in response: “I want to sleep”.

Yousef (left) with his father Ahmad Rajab and older brother, who was killed in the blast Credit: ITV News
Yousef's father Ahmad digs through the rubble that used to be their home Credit: ITV News

It is the toddler’s utter innocence, combined with his intense suffering, which makes the pictures extremely difficult to watch.

For the last few days, the world has had another image on its mind. The photograph of Aylan Kurdi’s lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach, which appears to have changed the terms of Europe’s refugee debate.

The pictures of Yousef are a reminder of what Aylan’s family were trying to escape.

From Yousef’s hospital ward, the risks of becoming a refugee, of crossing borders and stormy seas, don’t seem so great.