Desolation and Darkness
"Bodies of children, women and men that don't show a drop of blood and everyone is suffocated -- even birds fell from the sky, dead."
Syrian opposition member
"When the attack happened the sound was not so loud and it seemed ordinary to us because we've been through six years of war."
"But after a few minutes we began to get messages on our mobiles that something dangerous and unexpected had happened."
"They [people in the streets] couldn't talk, they couldn't move, they couldn't breathe. Most of them were women and children."
Samer al-Yusuf, resident of Khan Sheikhoun, Syria
These are Assad's favourite tactics, to bomb civilian enclaves as group punishment for being Sunnis and as such in support of the Syrian Sunni factions prepared to fight the regime that refused to give the country's majority status Sunni population equality with the minority Shiite Alawites supporting the regime. Chlorine gas was used to great effect on previous occasions by the Syrian military.
Committing massacres of dissident Sunnis represents a tactic in high favour with previous administrations, as during the reign of Bashar's father when Hafez Assad authorized his brother Rifaat Assad as leader of an elite military corps taking the initiative in the 1982 massacre in the central city of Hama. Although thousands were killed back then, Bashar has effectively proven he could outdistance his father's legacy number of kills.
The barrel bombs that rained down on Syrian towns and villages where the opposition held sway was effective enough in increasing the body count. And the steadfast militia support of Hezbollah in supporting the regime's military campaign against Syrian dissidents has gone a long way to defeating the rebel cause since the Islamic Republic of Iran is intent on prevailing with its aspiration for a Shiite crescent comprised of Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Syria.
The Syrian opposition fairly well controls Idlib province and the strike on Tuesday was Assad's calling card putting them on notice that, with Russia's intervention the tide has turned completely, and any gains the opposition had made before Russia's air support will never be regained. In Khan Sheikhoun, most people were still in bed, when the canisters containing deadly sarin gas were released, and it was the feral cats roaming the streets who first died.
Once the chemical gas began spreading, people in Khan Sheikhoun began their descent into pain, helplessly gasping for breath. There was no practised protocol for the town residents in preparation for such an attack. The rescuers who rushed to the area were themselves victimized by the chemical. Mosque loudspeakers blasted warnings for people to give the area wide berth, but people were anxious about their friends and families and rushed to the area to help.
And just as it is a favoured tactic of Islamic State terrorists to set off an initial explosion, then another once people rush to the scene to attempt a rescue mission, so the second explosion causes additional barbaric bloodshed, on this occasion the Syrian military did likewise. The hospital desperately treating children who were immobilized and stricken by the gas along with comatose adults, came under bombardment, which killed even more people and rendered the hospital inoperative.
From past aerial assaults it is fairly well known that both the Russian and the Syrian air force seemed to be attracted to hospitals, bombing them, putting them out of commission so they could no longer tend to the wounds of people who were previous victims of bombardments. Hospitals and schools seemed to be favourite targets.
The wounded, desperately trying to breathe, overcome by the chemicals they were exposed to, were stripped of their chemical-infused clothing by rescuers who hosed their bodies with cold water in an effort to disperse the chemicals. People lay in the streets, not even able to scream in their pain, because they were physically immobilized.
In the homes closest to where the chemical-containing canisters fell, whole families were discovered, dead. A Syrian opposition journalist had rushed to a Khan Sheikhoun hospital to record the treatment given to the wounded when warplanes were heard overhead, and the clinic was struck, his camera capturing portions of the building's roof in collapse, and then darkness.
|This photo provided Tuesday, April 4, 2017 by the Syrian anti-government activist group Edlib Media Center, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows Syrian doctors treating a child following a suspected chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib province, Syria|