While victims of chemical weapons in Syria are still suffering to cope with what has happened, the world has moved on to focus on the repercussions of American airstrikes against Syrian Army airbase. A message by Raed Al-Saleh, Head of the Syrian Civil Defence (White Helmets).
When the first volunteer team responded to the airstrike in Khan Shaykhun in Syria, they had no idea it was a chemical attack. They were all poisoned.
Then the second team arrived, and we started to rescue the wounded and injured. There were so many affected.
The situation required a response far beyond our means; therefore, it was hard to rescue everyone. We resorted to using fire hoses to wash off the deadly chemicals of children’s bodies.
That chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun was only a beginning. Four hours later our rescue teams were targeted in several areas. Our centre in Khan Shaykhun itself was hit by six airstrikes, while the nearby Al Rahma hospital was struck by four.
Both were completely destroyed. There were attacks throughout Idlib province, which paralysed our teams and our ability to respond.
The images in the media showing our teams responding to the chemical attack provoked a violent reaction by the Syrian regime. Several more teams and centres were deliberately targeted.
On Friday, our centre in Jisr Al-Shughur was hit, killing two of our volunteers and injuring three. One of the strikes was so severe that we couldn’t find the body parts of our colleague to bury him.
The world has now moved on from thinking about our chemical weapons victims. All the talk is now about the strikes against Shayrat air base, the one used in the poison gas attack.
We hoped that targeting that air base would limit the volume of killing. But we noticed that the strike hasn’t been taken seriously and just yesterday regime warplanes took off from the very same airbase.
To protect civilians in Syria we need all of these planes to be stopped.
While they fly, the regime continues to bomb civilians with all kinds of weapons. There have been more than 120 chemical attacks in the past few years, not to mention the use of banned weapons like cluster bombs and ‘bunker busters’ in residential areas.
We need safe areas in Syria so that we can get our lives back. People here want neighbourhoods where their children can go to school, where some semblance of normal life can return.
We need swift, serious, and genuine steps from countries around the world to bring to justice those who used chemical weapons against civilians in Khan Shaykhun, Ghouta, and so many other places in Syria.