Abdel Hameed al-Youssef was woken by the sounds of planes roaring over his house. His first thought was to protect his family. As he was getting out of bed, the first of the bombs pounded into the road outside his house. The exploded with a loud thud, smashing windows and setting off car alarms. Abdel’s eyes widened, fear gripped his chest. He stumbled to the window trying to avoid the glass now strewn across his bedroom floor. He could see the bomb crater, smoking and glowing. Cars overturned and debris covering the road and his front yard.
He thought of his 9-month old twins, Aya and Ahmed, asleep in the room on the ground floor and he began to scream their names as he yanked at his bedroom door. The stairs were covered in glass and cement, impeding his journey to his children.
Ambulance and police sirens pierced the early morning chaos as a car’s gas tank exploded.
As he carefully made his way down the damaged stairs, Abdel could see neighbors outside struggling to breathe. Some were clutching at their throats as they fell to their knees.
Finally he got to the twins room. They lay motionless. The sirens, screams and alarms receded as fear overwhelmed Abdel. He called their names, patted their cheeks, gently shook their little shoulders. But they lay motionless. He gently picked them up, wiped the foam from their lips and hugged them.
He began to shake as the enormity of his situation crashed down on him. His precious twins were dead.
Early on the 4th of April, 2017 the Khan Shaykhun area of southern Idlib in the Syrian Arab Republic, was attacked with chemical weapons. As of now, 86 civilians including 30 children and 20 women have been killed and some 546 injured. Abdel Hameed al-Youssef’s twins, Aya and Ahmed were killed, as were his wife and other relatives.
The Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad denies using chemical weapons. Investigations are underway. In 2015, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations undertook a ‘Face Finding Mission’ in Syria to examine the allegations of the use of toxic chemicals as weapons in Syria. They confirmed that chemical weapons had been used back then. President Assad has used chemical weapons before, and it appears he may have used them again, though this is still to be proved.
The chemical compound believed to have been used on Tuesday’s attack was the banned substance Sarin. The production and stockpiling of sarin was outlawed as of April 1997 by the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993. Sarin is a nerve agent that causes the victim to suffocate. Upon direct exposure to this odorless gas, the victim will die within 1 to 10 minutes.
I am disgusted that anyone can knowingly deploy such a vile and evil attack as Sarin. The United Nations and the international community need to take immediate action to find out who perpetrated these attacks. And then take immediate action to bring them to account.
As for Abdel Hameed al-Youssef and all those affected by this evil act, I invite you to pray for them. They face many dark days ahead.
Brothers and sisters in Christ: Before he was crucified, our Savior Jesus Christ promised to draw to himself all things whether in heaven or on earth. Let us pray, therefore, that the peace accomplished through the Cross of Christ may be realized in our own world and our own relationships. Let us pray for the Church and the world God so loves, for peace among all nations, and for the reconciliation of all people and all things in the Name of Christ. Amen. (Prayer by Episcopal Relief)
The above story is a fictional account I wrote in response to the photo of Abdel Hameed al-Youssef holding his deceased twins.
Photo: Abdel Hameed al-Youssef and his deceased twins, Aya and Ahmed.