A young father of of two sobbed as he carried his infant twins, wrapped in matching white shrouds, to their burial.
Abdulhamid al-Youssef carried Ahmad and Aya, nine months old, who died on Tuesday morning in a chemical attack in northern Syria, along with Mr Youssef’s wife Dalal and 16 other members of his family.
On Wednesday he had to bury them all in an unmarked mass grave.
The 29-year-old shopkeeper was working when the deadly air strike hit
al-Youssef’s wife called and alerted him about the attack and he hurried home, when he arrived, everyone appeared to be OK, but as a precaution he took them all down to the basement in case of another strike.
It was only an hour later when they all started displaying symptoms.
“The family was all waiting down there and were safe, but then they started choking,” Mr Youssef’s cousin, Alaa, told the Telegraph. “The twins suddenly began shaking and struggling to breathe. Then he watched the chemicals take hold of his wife, then his brother, nieces and nephews.
“Everyone died down there in the basement, they didn’t have time to get to the hospital,” he said. “All Abdulhadim kept saying to me after was ‘I couldn’t save any of them, brother, I couldn’t save them’.”
“Chemical attacks leave no marks,” said Dr Mamoun Najem, a doctor at al-Rahma hospital in Idlib who treated the victims. “It’s a silent killer that works its way through the body slowly.”
“Their pupils were as small as pinpricks, their skin was cold. They were unresponsive like zombies,” Najem said.
A nurse at the hospital, who did not wish to give his name, said: “The smell reached us here in the center; it smelled like rotten food. We’ve received victims of chlorine before – this was completely different.
The Syrian military denied using chemical weapons against civilians, saying it is too “honorable” to carry out such “heinous” crimes.
“The general command of the army and armed forces categorically denies using any chemical or poisonous materials in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in the Idlib countryside today, nor has it used or will it use them in any place or time previously or in the future,” the military said in a statement on Facebook.
Many have placed the blame on the Syrian government, including U.S. President Donald Trump, who called Tuesday’s attack “heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime.”
Trump also faulted his predecessor Barack Obama, suggesting that his administration mishandled the Syria conflict.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis labeled the suspected Syrian chemical attack “a heinous act” and said that it will be “treated as such.”
ABC News and The Telegraph contributed to this report