The images that moved President Trump to act

Story highlights

  • President Trump moved to act after seeing images from the attack
  • Graphic photos from the scene show attack's smallest victims

(CNN)Warning: This article contains graphic images of dead children.

The images were shocking. Children who suffocated in their final moments. Little ones who died horrible deaths in a war zone in Syria.
The images moved people around the world to call for action. In Washington, they moved a President to make a tough decision -- to strike the alleged perpetrators -- a senior administration official told CNN.
"No child of God should ever suffer such horror," President Donald Trump said Thursday night after ordering the US military to strike an airfield in Syria with more than 50 cruise missiles.
Twenty-six children were among the more than 80 people killed in Tuesday's attack.
Video shows gas attack aftermath
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Video shows gas attack aftermath 01:23
We don't know what type of nerve agent was used in the alleged chemical attack Tuesday in Idlib.
If the attack involved sarin, which was used in a 2013 attack in the Syrian capital of Damascus, its victims may not have died quickly. Nerve agents can take several minutes to kill. People choke as the muscles that control breathing spasm and shut down. Bodily functions can't be controlled.
As images from the attack show, words fall short of the horror.
A doctor at the scene became emotional talking about the suffering he had witnessed, of the dead and the living. Fares al-Jundi told CNN entire families died together, their mouths covered in foam. The wounded blanketed the floors of the hospital where Jundi was.
"I've never seen anything like it, beyond description," he said.
And that is why such harrowing photographs, painfully close and unsparing in their depictions of death, are necessary to understand what exactly is going on here.

A voice of the war shares the unspeakable

Warning: This section contains graphic images of dead children.
Bana Alabed, a Syrian girl who gained worldwide notoriety for tweeting during the Syrian regime's siege on Aleppo, shared more graphic photos of the aftermath of the chemical attack.
Alabed and her family were evacuated from Aleppo in December 2016, but the girl has continued to serve as a window into the suffering of her people.
In one photograph, children are hosed down, their bodies curled and stiff with death. "Dear world, today these children were murdered with chemical in Idlib," she wrote. "Shame on you killers, shame on you. Shame on you, shame on you..."
In another photograph shown in the gallery above, half a dozen boys appear to be loaded into the back of a truck, tangled up in each other. They have been stripped of their clothes, their limbs contorted and skin splotched red. Some of them have their eyes closed. Those that do not look straight up with wide, empty eyes.
"This is today in Syriad in #Idlib," Alabed says.
It does not go unnoticed that the 7-year-old Alabed is sharing images that no parent would ever want their child to see.
But the thousands of children who are endangered and dying in Syria do not get to hide behind a black bar. You can look away from a photograph, but for them it is their lives -- and deaths -- that are depicted.