Sarin killed my unborn baby. When will it end?

The TimesBel Trew, Cairo
Struggling to breathe in the aftermath of the sarin gas attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun last month, Aya Fadl was one of many people rushed to the nearest hospital.

As the paramedics attached an oxygen mask to her face, she prayed she would survive — and that her unborn baby would too.

Ms Fadl was ten weeks pregnant when on April 4 a regime warplane dropped a chemical bomb on the town in northwest Syria, killing 25 of her relatives and 92 people in all.

She lived. Her baby did not.

“Days later the doctor told me that my baby had died because of the gas. I was devastated, there are no words,” she said. “It felt terrible. I was 70 days pregnant at the time.”

Ayaa Fadl’s account of the Sarin gas attack

Ms Fadl, 25, collapsed from the poisonous fumes after stumbling upon a lorry packed with the corpses of her dead relatives. She awoke in hospital, along with her son Nadjat, two, and her husband, Alaa, 27. Three of the 25 relatives she lost died only recently, after being taken to a hospital in Turkey in a vain attempt to save their lives. One of them was aged 11, she said.

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Father’s tragic bid to save family from warplanes

The TimesBel Trew, Cairo
A Syrian father who told his wife to take their babies and hide from the warplanes unwittingly sent all three of them to their deaths.

Abdelhamid al-Youssef, 29, left his loved ones with a paramedic when he saw a missile strike near his parents’ home in the town of Khan Sheikhoun. He told his family before he left: take cover.

Delal, following her husband’s advice, carried their nine-month-old twins Ahmed and Aya to the basement of the building, normally the safest place in an airstrike. This time, however, the warplanes shrieking overhead had dropped nerve gas — which, because it is heavier than air, quickly began to pool at the bottom of the apartment block, suffocating them.

“Hours later rescuers found them in a basement near our house, dead, with foam in the noses and mouths,” Mr Youssef told The Times. “When I saw them —” he began, before breaking off into a shaky prayer. “I did not expect that. Oh God!”

He lost 22 members of his family to the nerve gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun, in the northwest province of Idlib, last Tuesday. The toxic bomb, containing what Turkish officials confirmed yesterday was sarin gas, had landed on their street.

The image of Mr Youssef weeping over the hastily dug graves of his wife and babies was one of the most heartbreaking of the many which emerged after the attack. Another, showing him carrying his dead twins swaddled in white funerary cloths, summed up the horror of the killings.

Eighty-six people, 30 of them children, were killed and 540 injured in the attack, widely attributed to the Assad regime. Fighter jets returned hours after the chemical attack and bombed the Rahma hospital where the wounded were being treated, perhaps in the hope of destroying any evidence that chemical weapons had been used.

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Noses full of foam, eyes half closed, victims died gasping

The TimesBel 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.

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