WARNING: Below contains content that could be distressing to some.
The attack on the town of Khan Sheikhun in Syria made headlines this week after falling victim to a senseless, inhumane and completely incomprehensible act of cruelty.
A toxic gas attack has killed at least 70 people, with at least 100 more being treated in hospitals in the Idlib province where the initial attack took place, and over 500 injured. Amongst those numbers were at least 27 children.
“In this most recent attack, dozens of children suffocated to death while they slept,” said Ahmad Tarakji, the head of the Syrian American Medical Society, which supports hospitals in opposition-controlled areas in Syria.
“This should strike at the very core of our humanity. How much longer will the world fail to respond to these heinous crimes?”
Dozens more have been relocated to Turkey where treatment to save their lives has begun.
These actions, carried out by the Bashar-al-Assad regime, are still being denied by both the Assad administration and their Russian allies.
Despite postmortem results released by Turkey stating that cause of death had been due to chemical weapons, Russia’s defence still vehemently denies involvement.
According to Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a former commanding officer of the UK Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Regiment and director of Doctors Under Fire, the suspected poison is thought to be sarin, which was responsible for the deaths of hundreds in Ghouta 2013. After the horrific attack, Assad agreed to surrender his supply of chemical weapons, but most experts, including Bretton-Gordon agree that an undisclosed stockpile of sarin remained unaccounted for.
“It is possible it’s sarin but also possible it could be something else, or a mix of things. We mustn’t fall into the trap of thinking that [only] one substance was used, when it could have been more than one,” said Richard Guthrie, a British chemical weapons expert.
“The key thing I’m confident of here is that a material has been deliberately dispersed in order to cause harm. People flying the aircraft wanted to kill other people with poison.”
So what can we do?
If like millions of others around the world, you were left feeling helpless after bearing witness to these atrocities, know that there are measures we can all take to support those who are working on the ground in Syria.
There are numerous charities operating worldwide to help those caught up in this crisis. Here is a list of a few below if you are looking to make a donation:
- MSF – Doctors Without Borders – msf.org.au/donate
- The Red Cross – redcross.org.au/Syria-charity
- Save the Children – savethechildren.org.au/donate/monthlydonation
- UNICEF – unicef.org.au/appeals/syria-crisis-appeal
- The White Helmets are everyday heroes saving lives on humanity’s front line – https://www.whitehelmets.org/en