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I survived the 2013 chemical attack on Ghouta

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Six years ago, I was living in Muadamiyat al-Sham in the Damascus suburbs of western Ghouta, which at that time was under siege by the Syrian regime. My whole family of 12 had moved to the basement of our house due to the incessant bombardment by Syrian regime fighter jets and helicopters.

It was early morning on the August 21, I couldn't sleep so I went online and started going through the latest news posted on social media. Almost immediately, I came across freshly uploaded videos from Zamlka, Ein Tarma and Irbin in eastern Ghouta showing people spasming and fainting, their eyes rolling back and foam coming out of their mouths. I couldn't believe it - this was just 20km away from my house.

I woke my family up and told them the news. They began panicking and couldn't believe what I was telling them. They kept asking me if I was sure of what I was saying. Then, at about 5am, information circulated online that Muadamiyat al-Sham had also been attacked with chemical weapons. I told a friend: "That's not true, I live there, you must mean Eastern Ghouta." I was wrong. Chemical weapons had been dropped on my town and we had not realised because it was not that close to our house.

We had heard whistling explosions, louder than usual, but thought they were ground-to-ground missiles. For two years we had been bombed with all sorts of weapons - how do you recognise the sound of a chemical attack?

I decided to go outside and one of my neighbours told me that the news of the attack was true. I saw people running in the streets, shouting and crying, and trying to get those affected by the gas to the field hospital. I did not see the missiles that released the chemicals but I could feel the effect of the gas - my eyes began to burn.

I went back to the basement and told my........

© Al Jazeera