Dozens die in suspected chemical attack in Syria video report
I procured children lying on the ground, in their last breaths, their lips running blue, said Abu al-Baraa, who lives nearby and rushed to assist when the full extent of what had happened dawned on him.
Standing across the street from the crater left by the missile, he added: People on the rooftops and in the cellars. People on the ground in the street. Wherever you seemed there were dead human beings.
The suffocating both patients and those who had died were taken to the nearby civil defense centre and the adjacent clinic built into the side of a rocky mountainous outcrop to withstand potential airstrikes. The dead were laid in a nearby shed while emergency employees hosed down the injured with water, and administered atropine, a nerve agent antidote.
But while medical workers were trying to come to grips with the crisis, between eight and 10 airstrikes targeted the medical facility and civil defence centre. The shed collapsed on the dead, and the site was put out of service.
Maybe the pilots heard the myth that you could come back to life 48 hours after succumbing from sarin, so they decided to bomb them again just in case, said an official from the Ahrar al-Sham rebel group who was on the scene. Thank God there is a Day of judgment in the afterlife.
The Guardian visited the destroyed medical facility and civilian defense centre briefly. Local people said reconnaissance planes had been spotted in the sky earlier and believed the region might be targeted again later in the day.
The site was filled with rubble. Inside, hospital equipment, beds, surgical instruments and small boxes of medicine lay covered in dust or broken on the ground. There were no weapons in sight, and the rooms inside the cave were darkened with the electricity knocked out.
In a nearby graveyard, the tombs were still fresh from funerals the day before, the red soil still upturned. In one corner 18 new tombs were put up, the names barely etched with a rough chisel on the tombstones. They contained the bodies of 20 people, including two children who were buried with their mother. They were all from the same family.
Abdulhamid al-Yousef, one of the few survivors in the family, was receiving condolences at his home in Khan Sheikhun, a day after interring his wife and nine-month-old twins, Ahmed and Aya, fighting back tears.
Yousef had rushed to help the other victims of the attack. He came back instead to find that much of his family had died, including siblings, nephews and nieces. His spouse and children had rushed down to the bomb shelter in their basement, only for the toxic gas to seep into it, which killed them all.
That evening at the cemetery, he insisted on carrying his two newborns in his arms to inter them himself. Almost in a trance Yousef repeated the childrens names, choking as he did so. Aya and Ahmed, my spirits. Yasser and Ahmed, my brothers who had my back. Ammoura and Hammoudi, Shaimaa, so many others, he said.