The Khan Shaykhun chemical attack in Syria took place on 4 April 2017. The atrocity shocked the world, and the United States responded with missile strikes on the Syrian airbase where the chemical attack was believed to have been launched.
92 people, including children, were killed in the sarin gas attack, reported to have been ordered by the Syrian government of Bashar Hafez al-Assad.
While the world condemned the killing of innocent civilians and children, nothing much else has been done to bring the culprits to justice.
Pictures of dead bodies lining the streets of the town have circulated in the media and online, but CNN has now obtained actual footage of the final moments of some of the victims, especially children, literally fighting for their last breaths.
The footage is graphic and explicit. It is also deeply disturbing.
In a report titled “Gasping for Life – Syria’s merciless war on its own children”, journalists Clarissa Ward, Waffa Munayyer, Salma Abdelaziz, and Fiona Sibbett, explain why it was important for the world to “bear witness” to the final moments of the children in the video.
Their report begins:
“She stares off into the distance as she gasps for air, her tiny chest heaving desperately to take in more oxygen. Her eyes are wide and unflinching, her pupils constricted, the panic behind them clear.
“The little girl looks confused: she doesn’t understand why she is dying, why she is lying in the back of a truck with other small children, some foaming at the mouth, others motionless, the life already gone from them.
“The ground all around her is strewn with bodies, some wracked with convulsions, thrashing around in the mud as rescue workers attempt in vain to hose off the chemical agent that has blanketed them.”
“[When] you watch these children choking on what were likely their last breaths, you understand what evil is,” the journalists say.
“There is no mercy, no quick death, no dignity in those last moments. The victims lose control of their faculties, froth at the mouth, and writhe around on the ground as the life drains out of them.”
The journalists explain why it is important that people watch the short video, even if it is difficult to do so.
“We felt it was vital to show you these images because when you’re watching these children gasping their last breaths, you finally really understand what a war crime is and you hear the voices of the people who died that day.”
“[There] is something particularly horrifying, particularly difficult to take in about these images. And sometimes people will use that as an excuse, this idea that I can’t watch all this suffering, it makes me miserable and I don’t know what to do about it.
“But that’s not an excuse. You have to watch it. You have to bear witness.”
The video by CNN, as mentioned, is difficult to watch and is extremely graphic. Please watch at your own discretion.