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As a chemical attack took over his town, a Syrian man could only watch helplessly as his infant twins perished.
“I couldn’t save anyone. They are all dead now,” said Abdel Hameed Alyousef, who cradled his deceased 9-month old twins in each arm.
The heartbroken man lost 22 members of his clan, including his wife and children, in the suspected chemical attack that devastated the small town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib, Syria, and resulted in the death of more than 80 residents.
Alyousef said when the airstrikes occurred, he was with his twins.
“I carried them outside the house with their mother,” the 29-year-old shop owner told the AP. “They were conscious at first, but 10 minutes later we could smell the odor.”
His children and wife soon fell sick. When Alyousef brought them to the paramedics, he thought they would recover. He went out to see if the rest of his family was all right, but soon came face to face with a nightmare: Two of his brothers, two nephews and a niece and several of his neighbors and friends had succumbed to whatever was in the missiles.
It was later when he was told by his other relatives that his wife and children were dead also. Alyousef had to take them to a mass grave where 22 members of his family were buried.
“Say goodbye, baby, say goodbye,” Alyousef cried as he cradled his children while sitting in a car. He had asked his cousin Alaa to record his farewell.
More than 80 people, including at least 30 children and 20 women were killed in the chemical attack on the town. For the Alyousef clan, one of the town’s chief clan, the tragedy was compounded because they lost so many people from a single family as the missiles fell close to where they lived.
“Abdel Hameed is in very bad shape,” said his cousin, Alaa Alyousef. He was treated for exposure to the toxin, “but he's especially broken down over his massive loss.”
Witnesses say four rockets smashed a crater in the ground but resulted in minimal damage to the structure. Only when a member of the Alyousef family saw a woman collapse for no reason near the site of the bombing, that they realized it was not an ordinary attack.
The high number of casualties as well as the horrific symptoms like convulsions, vomiting and constricted pupils, indicates towards a neurotoxin made from a combination of chlorine and sarin, according to a Doctor Without Borders team that treated a number of victims.
The latest attack has deepened the resentment among Syrians who live in rebel-held areas, doubly so because no one is willing to take responsibility for the tragedies.
The United States and other Western countries accuse Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad of launching the attacks, yet Syria and its supporter Russia, reject the notion. It is difficult to do justice in the absence of independent investigation of Syria’s chemical weapons, especially when Assad continues to miss deadline to hand over these weapons of mass destruction and insist they have been destroyed.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters