BEIRUT, Lebanon — Thousands of sick and dying Syrians had flooded the hospitals in the Damascus suburbs before dawn, hours after the first rockets landed, their bodies convulsing and mouths foaming. Their vision was blurry and many could not breathe.
Overwhelmed doctors worked frantically, jabbing their patients with injections of their only antidote, atropine, hoping to beat back the assault on the nervous system waged by suspected chemical agents. In just a few hours, as the patients poured in, the atropine ran out.
To avoid contamination, medics stripped new arrivals down to their underwear and doused them with water before taking them inside.
New patients kept coming. One doctor from the town of Kafr Batna likened the scene to a horror movie, with cars bringing in entire families — fathers, mothers and children — all of them dead.
The doctors soon faced a new problem: where to put the dead. Some were covered with blocks of ice to fend off the summer heat, others were wrapped in white sheets and lined up in rows so family members could identify the victims.
It would be hours before officials in Washington woke up on Wednesday to learn the extent of the massacre. President Obama, who had recently returned from a weeklong vacation and planned a quiet day at the White House before departing for a two-day bus tour across New York and Pennsylvania, was told of the attack in the Oval Office that morning during his regular intelligence briefing.
The White House issued a cautious public statement about the attacks from a deputy spokesman shortly before noon, but behind the scenes the president and his national security team were grappling with the urgency and enormity of the event: the largest mass killing of the Syrian civil war, and most likely the deadliest chemical weapons attack since Saddam Hussein’s troops killed thousands of Kurds with sarin gas during the waning days of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988.
Interviews with more than two dozen activists, rebels and doctors in areas near the attack sites, as well as an examination of more than 100 videos and photos of the aftermath, back up this assertion.
Monday, August 26, 2013
New York Times: Proof of Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria
The New York Times has a detailed report on the nerve gas attack in Syria: