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

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 must always get to excessive floor if we expect a chemical attack has occurred,” he stated. “There was a water tanker, so we began to scrub 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 pictures of others who had perished in previous chemical assaults flashed earlier than his eyes.

“I do not wish to die, not like this, expensive God, please simply let me see my youngsters one final time,” the 46-year-old recalled considering 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 on the city of Saraqeb, within the northwestern province of Idlib.

The United Nations is investigating the alleged chemical attack 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 attack in Saraqeb final week and spoke to a number of eyewitnesses.

Khattab was solely in Saraqeb to guard his house from looters, he says. His spouse and 5 youngsters, like a lot of the others who used to name the city house, 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 house together 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, and then 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 stated. “The scent hit me within the face. It was like smelling dangerous 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 automobile. Ali drove his household north, made positive they had been protected, and then returned to protect his house. Though none of them had been sickened by the bomb, he says the expertise was extra terrifying than something he’d been by means of.

“I really feel like loss of life is at our doorstep. We’re used to barrel bombs and artillery, however that is one thing totally different,” he stated. “I smelled it, I felt it. This is not one thing you’ll be able to disguise from. You need to run, however there may be nowhere to run.”

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

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

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

Deadly airstrikes pummel Syria's besieged Eastern Ghouta

“It was actually dangerous once we bought right here,” 22-year-old Ayham Zeidan, an ambulance driver, recalled. “We put 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 outdoors Saraqeb as a result of they stated the bombing that night time was too intense.

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

“My complete physique began trembling,” Dandal stated. “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’d get there,” Zeidan remembered. “I used to be afraid I’d crash or flip the ambulance.”

The alleged poisonous attack occurred throughout every 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 all the 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, stated it was the hardest interval but.

“I imply these final days, it has been a tragedy. It is so arduous to do our work when you have got plane overhead, when you already know the following strike is coming,” he stated. “We’ve realized that we now have seven minutes give or take inside strikes. You simply have to avoid wasting whomever you’ll be able to.”

Mahmoud Kafratoune’s father was amongst these affected by the chemical attack, 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 stated 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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