Bel Trew, Cairo – Hannah Lucinda Smith, Istanbul
There was not much destruction to be seen in the town of Khan Sheikhoun as the warplanes vanished beyond the horizon — but any sense of relief felt by the medics who rushed in to help was short-lived. What they found instead of civilians running from flames or buried under piles of rubble were corpses; several of them in homes that appeared to have been untouched by any bomb.
In some rooms men, women and children were convulsing in their beds, foaming at the mouth. The warplanes had hit Khan Sheikhoun, in the northwestern Idlib province, at 6.30am when most people were asleep. Only when the medics and volunteers who had arrived to offer assistance themselves began to faint did they realise what had happened: the town had been gassed.
“I felt intense pain in my throat as it started to close. I felt paralysed,” said Hussain Kayal, 26 one of the first to arrive. The missile had landed barely 500 metres away from his home.
“We were shocked when we couldn’t see any damage or destruction. Inside the houses we found sleeping families choking. They were having seizures. Their noses were full of foam and their eyes were half closed. People were suffocating in front of our eyes.”
At least a hundred people died and 400 were injured in the attack, which human rights groups said was one of the deadliest uses of chemical weapons recorded in the six-year civil war. The Assad regime has been blamed, despite its protestations of innocence.
PHOTO: EDLIB MEDIA CENTER/ASSOCIATED PRESS