Dad says goodbye to twin sons after Syria gas attack killed 19 family members
A father in Syria bid a heartbreaking farewell at the graves of his twins Wednesday after they were killed in a suspected chemical weapon attack before reaching their first birthday.
Abdel Hameed al-Youssef's wife was also among the more than 20 members of his family killed Tuesday in a northern Syria airstrike that killed at least 80 people.
Cameras were there for the heart-wrenching moment two men held al-Youssef upright as his unimaginable grief kept pulling him down to the freshly turned ground of his loved ones' graves.
Earlier, the 29-year-old was driven to the graves with the tiny, lifeless bodies of 9-month-old twins Aya and Ahmed cradled in his lap.
"Say goodbye, baby, say goodbye," he told them.
Photos from the heart-wrenching scene:
"I was right beside them and I carried them outside the house with their mother," al-Youssef, a shop owner, later recalled to The Associated Press about the chaotic moments that followed the strike. "They were conscious at first, but 10 minutes later we could smell the odor."
While taking shelter together in a basement, the twins, their mother and other family all started choking as al-Youssef watched helplessly.
Al-Youssef would also find the bodies of two of his brothers, two nephews and a niece, as well as neighbors and other victims before losing consciousness at the scene.
He'd later get the news that his wife and children had died. The bereaved father would personally lay them to rest in an unmarked mass grave.
"I took Ahmed and Aya and buried them with my brothers. I buried my kids with my own hands. My wife and my brothers," al-Youssef said Wednesday.
Al-Youssef's was an outsize loss, even for war-torn Syria, where the U.S. and others have accused President Bashar Assad of being behind the attack on his own people, even though the government has insisted its chemical weapons have all been destroyed.
Assad made the claim after a 2013 sarin gas attack killed hundreds outside the capital city of Damascus. Video from the attack showed convulsing children and bodies in rubble-filled streets.
The Trump administration said this most recent attack was carried out by Assad's forces. The Syrian government has denied being behind the attack.