Massacre at Khan Sheikhoun: The Day the World Ended

Syria The Survivors

For many Syrian families, the world ended shortly after sunrise on April 4, 2017. That morning, man-made death would grip their throats and drain their lives with cruel efficiency.

Air raids over Syrian airspace have been commonplace for the last six years, as the nation’s air force -supported by Russian aircraft- drop ordnance on their own people on a regular basis.

Civil war has been raging for more than half a decade. Up to 400,000 people have died, been injured, or fled the war-torn country that its president, Bashar al Assad, is determine to destroy.

But the air raid on Tuesday morning was to be different from the rest. Fighter bomber jets of yet undetermined allegiance flew over the rebel-held area of Khan Sheikhoun, in the Idlib region.

Idlib is one of the last bastions held by rebel factions that stand against Assad’s tyranny. After a long and bloody struggle in Aleppo, rebels are losing ground. And Assad is determined to annihilate anyone opposed to his terror regime. He says that the only way is ‘victory.’

On April 4, Khan Sheikhoun residents woke up to the sound of jet engines roaring overhead. Up in the skies, a pilot presumably requested permission to drop the weapon. Soon, ordnance began its final descent on the civilian target.

Witness reported hearing the weapon hit the town, but strangely, no explosion followed. The bomb carried a far deadlier cargo than high explosives.

Many families living in the immediate surroundings of the drop site stood no chance. Poison gas crept in, turning people’s beds into their tombs. Men, women, and children began suffocating as soon as the chemicals took hold of their bodies. For these residents, it was all over in minutes. Those living¬†further away would suffer far more.

The weapon’s deadly cargo began spreading death around Khan Sheikhoun. Victims fell to the ground, twitching, convulsing, and gasping for air. Children were the worst sight. Their small bodies succumbed to the poison quicker, their little eyes wide open in sheer terror as they could no longer find air to breathe.

The deadly agent soon began evaporating, its potency gradually diminishing as the chemical broke down in the atmosphere. Over 70 people were left dead in its wake, many children among these. Their deaths were not easy. Suffocation due to acute respiratory distress ended their lives, their mouths foaming as lungs produce fluid in a desperate attempt to flush out the deadly chemicals. But all in vain.

In the wake of such atrocity, the world issues its deepest ‘consternation’. Again.

Assad has used chemical weapons in the past. Back in 2013, over a thousand people died after being exposed to the deadly nerve agent sarin in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta. In the aftermath of such grievous crime against humanity, the US considered direct military intervention in the region, but the Obama Administration relented after Assad agreed to hand over Syria’s stockpiles of chemical weapons. Nevertheless, chemical attacks have continued regularly since.

Both the US and Russia have repeatedly issued promises to ‘punish’ Syria if chemical weapons are used on civilians. Yet, neither nation has honoured such vow, and according to the Trump Administration, removing Assad from power is no longer a stated aim on its policy, unlike Obama’s.

Assad’s regime has never shied away from killing its own people to legitimize its own hold on power. Ever since the insurgency began back in 2011, Assad and his Russian allies have used all weapons at his disposal to quell the uprising against him. The city of Aleppo was systematically razed to the ground to flush out rebel groups, for instance.

Now, the world bears witness yet again to the atrocities committed by one power-driven man. Tuesday’s events bear a striking resemblance to the actions of another dictator, Saddam Hussein, who mass-murdered almost 5,000 Kurdish people in the town of Halabja, Irak, on March 16, 1988. At Saddam’s behest, warplanes dropped a multitude of chemical weaponry on the Kurds that day, leading to an indiscriminate massacre of untold proportions.

Now, Assad’s actions have stunned the civilized world once again. Governments are likely to talk tough and behave meekly, as military intervention in the region by either the US or any other Western power would further de-stabilize the region, and likely lead to a global conflict.

In the wake of Tuesday’s abhorrent atrocity, between 70 and 100 people (many of them children, let’s not forget) died in horrible, nightmarish circumstances. This has happened before, and it’s likely to happen again, as Assad’s regime knows that Russia is on his side.

The US and Russia have been fighting a proxy war in the region for years. Any overt military intervention would trigger a Russian response, which could lead to total war.

Yet, at the same time, the US’ disengagement might lead to the rise of further extremism, as new groups seek to take advantage of this relative impunity.

Khan Sheikhoun will now become another shameful black mark on humanity’s history book, a book which is already full of dark stains.

Death toll rises to 70 after deadly gas attack in Syria -Assad’s government denies any intervention

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The death toll after Tuesday morning’s deadly gas attack in Syria has risen to at least 80, many women and children among these. The scene was described by local doctors as ‘nightmarish’ and ‘chaotic.’

And Bashar al Assad’s government are denying any responsibility for the act, blaming a “leak” on a “rebel” factory instead.

According to the official version, Syrian aircraft struck a target near the Khan Sheikhoun. The facility hit was purportedly a warehouse containing toxic substances, which leaked and caused the deaths of dozens of men, women, and children in the nearby town.

However, international observers refute this claim, stating instead that the Syrian army acted with intent, and deployed a chemical weapon on a civilian area.

The gas, suspected to be sarin or a similar organophosphate agent, acted quickly and killed as many as 70 people in the immediate vicinity, injuring up to 400 more as the chemical dispersed.

According to World Health Organisation observers, victims displayed symptoms consistent with nerve agent poisoning, including acute dyspnea, miosis ( constriction of the pupils), and convulsions. The dead bodies also showed no sign of external injury, which seems to corroborate the chemical agent theory.

US President Donald Trump referred to the act as ‘heinous’ and quickly blamed his predecessor for the lack or resolute action in Syria.

The attack is one of the worst atrocities in Syria’s long running civil war, and follows a similar event in August 21, 2013, when Syrian forces deployed sarin-loaded rockets in Ghouta, a rebel-held suburb of Damascus. Up to 1,800 people, including many children, perished.

Suspected chemical attack in Syria kills dozens

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A suspected gas attack in Syria has reportedly killed dozens and injured scores more.

The attack took place in the townland of Khan Sheikhoun, in Idlib province.

The weapons were deployed via airstrike, hitting the town on Tuesday morning. At least 70 people died, including at least 10 children, and many more were injured.

The compound used has not yet been confirmed, but local doctors say that the symptoms displayed by the victims match those caused by sarin.

Sarin is a potent nerve agent that induces death in one to ten minutes if inhaled at a lethal dose. The chemical inhibits the enzyme acetylcholinesterase, causing uncontrolled muscle spasming leading to death by asphyxiation.

If confirmed, this would be deadliest chemical attack in Syria in many years.

In total, about 500 people suffered the consequences of the attack, which has been condemned by international observers.

Syrian authorities denied the use of chemical weapons, instead saying that ‘rebels are to blame.’

Khan Sheikhoun is largely rebel-held, and it is regularly targeted by airstrikes by the Russian-backed Syrian military.

Over 400,000 people have been killed since the beginning of the civil war in Syria.