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Blasts, an odor, then panic: Syrians on alleged chemical assault


Blasts, an odor, then panic: Syrians on alleged chemical assault

They heard two small explosions. One of many males went to open the door to look, and that is when the odor hit them.

“We ran to the roof, we already had gotten info that we should always get to excessive floor if we predict a chemical assault has occurred,” he mentioned. “There was a water tanker, so we began to clean ourselves and canopy our faces.”

Khattab started vomiting uncontrollably, gasping for air.

His voice cracking with emotion, Khattab described how he clawed at his closing throat as photographs of others who had perished in previous chemical assaults flashed earlier than his eyes.

“I do not wish to die, not like this, pricey God, please simply let me see my youngsters one final time,” the 46-year-old recalled pondering to himself simply earlier than he fainted.

Fayiz Khattab, 46, survived the attack on Saraqeb earlier this month.

On February 5, medics and activists reported Syrian authorities helicopter dropped chlorine bombs in town of Saraqeb, within the northwestern province of Idlib.

The United Nations is investigating the alleged chemical assault in Saraqeb in addition to one other in Japanese Ghouta. Syria’s authorities has repeatedly denied utilizing chemical weapons, however CNN visited the location of the assault in Saraqeb final week and spoke to a number of eyewitnesses.

Khattab was solely in Saraqeb to guard his dwelling from looters, he says. His spouse and 5 youngsters, like a lot of the others who used to name the city dwelling, had fled days earlier within the face of intensified Russian and regime bombing.

Ali Hajj Hussein and his household had been among the many few who did not. He was at dwelling along with his pregnant spouse and two youngsters after they heard helicopters overhead simply after 10 p.m. They heard the sound of one thing falling, after which the screams started.

“I opened the door and everybody was simply shouting ‘it is chlorine, it is chlorine.’ Individuals had been working in all instructions,” he mentioned. “The odor hit me within the face. It was like smelling unhealthy bleach.”

White Helmets volunteers Ayham Zeidan, 22, and Rami Dandal, 19, sit overlooking the scene of the attack in Saraqeb. Both were affected as they were trying to rescue other victims.

They ran out of the home and jumped into their automotive. Ali drove his household north, made certain they had been secure, after which returned to protect his dwelling. Though none of them had been sickened by the bomb, he says the expertise was extra terrifying than something he’d been by way of.

“I really feel like dying is at our doorstep. We’re used to barrel bombs and artillery, however that is one thing completely different,” he mentioned. “I smelled it, I felt it. This is not one thing you’ll be able to disguise from. It’s important to run, however there’s nowhere to run.”

The White Helmets, a volunteer rescue group, mentioned three of its members and 6 others had been injured by the alleged chlorine gasoline assault. The group posted a number of pictures on social media displaying males coughing and being put onto stretchers.

Six days after the assault, the sphere the place the 2 rounds left small craters was silent, save for the distant rumble of explosions and the just about odd-sounding noises of chirping birds. A faint, barely acrid odor nonetheless hung within the air.

Responders from the White Helmets mentioned they arrived on the scene inside minutes.

Deadly airstrikes pummel Syria's besieged Eastern Ghouta

“It was actually unhealthy once we obtained right here,” 22-year-old Ayham Zeidan, an ambulance driver, recalled. “We placed on our masks. We noticed the wounded, however there was no blood, nothing. We noticed individuals vomiting.”

They needed to get to a medical level exterior Saraqeb as a result of they mentioned the bombing that evening was too intense.

Because the ambulance barreled down the highway he and his colleague, Rami Dandal, each started to really feel affected.

“My complete physique began trembling,” Dandal mentioned. “I felt like I used to be screaming ‘take off the masks’, however nobody might hear me — I used to be screaming inside my head.”

He fainted whereas they had been nonetheless en route. Zeidan’s physique additionally began to shake.

“I used to be simply praying I might get there,” Zeidan remembered. “I used to be afraid I might crash or flip the ambulance.”

The alleged poisonous assault occurred throughout per week that even by Syria’s requirements was particularly punishing. It was described by the UN Excessive Commissioner for Human Rights in a press release as “one of many bloodiest durations of your complete battle with wave after wave of lethal airstrikes,” and “no-holds-barred” in nature.

Throughout that interval, six medical services had been focused in airstrikes in Idlib province alone, together with one of many key remaining hospitals that has a maternity ward.

When it was bombed, groups needed to evacuate employees and sufferers in addition to untimely infants, who had been faraway from their incubators, wrapped in blankets and despatched away in ambulances within the hopes they might arrive at one other medical facility earlier than they died.

Two of the babies who were evacuted from a main hospital in Idlib province after it was hit in an airstrike.

Laith al-Abdullah, 40, presently with the White Helmets however an accountant by commerce, mentioned it was the hardest interval but.

“I imply these final days, it has been a tragedy. It is so onerous to do our work when you could have plane overhead, when you realize the subsequent strike is coming,” he mentioned. “We now have realized that now we have seven minutes give or take inside strikes. You simply have to save lots of whomever you’ll be able to.”

Mahmoud Kafratoune’s father was amongst these affected by the chemical assault, solely to be killed days later in the identical space by one other strike as he was stacking sacks of grain in a truck.

“We had left the neighborhood, however my father stayed due to the home and his work,” the 20-year-old recalled. “My mom started beating her head and sobbing hysterically. We had simply seen my father, he mentioned he would come see us in two days, however then he by no means returned.”

Aref Alkrez contributed to this report.

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