The texts started at 3 a.m., as Mouaz Moustafa stayed up late working for his non-profit, the Syrian Emergency Task Force. The frantic messages were from Idlib Province, first from colleagues, then from friends – all near the site of the worst suspected chemical attack in Syria since 2013.
“I saw images of children, the pupils in the eyes were pinpoints, foam coming out of their mouths and muscle spasms,” Moustafa said in an interview Tuesday. “All pointed to a chemical attack.”
On a corner of Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and the U.S. Capitol, Moustafa scrolled through videos and messages on his iPhone, all revealing atrocities that have reached new heights.
“You see children that have no blood, that have no wounds, they look like peaceful little angles that are sleeping or are laying down,” Moustafa said. “Then you take a longer look, and you realize they’re dead. They suffered from a chemical attack, and they are all laying in a row.”
More than 50 civilians, mostly women and children, were killed in the attack Tuesday. Three hundred others have critical injuries caused by what appears to be chemical weapons – thought to have been removed or destroyed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in June 2014.
“It is clear that the Assad regime understands from the international community that he has a green light to do what he’s doing,” Moustafa said. “What I see when I see these kids, is something I cannot fathom.”
As the early morning hours turned to daylight, the activist’s attention turned to how America and a new administration could potentially end the unrest. Moustafa is a close friend of Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger, the two meeting years ago on the Syrian border during a congressional delegation trip.
In an interview Tuesday, Kinzinger (R) said American air strikes are needed to render Syrian runways inoperable, preventing planes from taking off and launching precision-guided chemical weapons.
“We made the mistake by not attacking after the red line debacle in 2013, and we have always held since World War I that there will be no use of chemical weapons on the battle space,” Kinzinger said, referring to President Barack Obama’s promised intervention after Assad used chemical weapons nearly four years ago.
“It’s the young people in this environment who are going to be the recruits for the next generation of ISIS or the next generation of al-Qaeda. So it’s in the interests not just of the United States, but everybody, to begin to fix this problem.”
In a written statement, President Donald Trump said the attack could not be ignored by the civilized world. He blamed the Assad regime, but also the Obama Administration’s “weakness and irresolution.”
“President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a ‘red line’ against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing,” the statement reads. “The United States stands with our allies across the globe to condemn this intolerable attack.”
Democratic critics blasted Trump, saying he had two opportunities at public events Tuesday to speak out against the Syrian dictator. Trump chose to remain silent on the subject during both events.
“The Syrian people are pleading for us, for others outside, to yell at the world,” Moustafa said. “We fear for our friends’ lives from the barrel bombs, the helicopters, and now, we fear for them because of the chemical weapons.”