Saturday 23 June 2018

'I awoke at 4.30am to a series of deafening thuds which shook the ground in Damascus'

The Syrian Scientific Research Centre which was attacked in the airstrikes (Hassan Ammar/AP)
The Syrian Scientific Research Centre which was attacked in the airstrikes (Hassan Ammar/AP)

Danny Makki

This wasn't the usual sound of light artillery shelling against remaining rebel enclaves in Damascus which you often hear. This was something quite different.

I awoke at around 4.30am to a series of deafening thuds which shook the ground in Qudsaya, a normally quiet suburb in west Damascus.

From the outset it was clear that this was a US-led strike against Syria; unlike previously heard or seen. There was initial surprise and panic. As people heard the blasts across the capital we knew these were the missile strikes.

A volley of more than 13 rockets went off in the distance, along with the fierce sound of anti-aircraft fire from the air defence base nearby. The crackle of Shilka anti-aircraft fire was followed by another wave of rockets.

The initial wave of missiles which lit up the pitch black Damascus skyline had landed on the military research facility of Barzeh, east of the capital. Mezzeh military airport in the western centre of Damascus was also hit.

As I hurried towards my computer, the phone began to ring with anxious family members from across Damascus calling for news. I told them they were just cruise missiles and urged them to stay inside and ride it out.

It was clear that all the international talk had translated into action, and the strikes weren't over just yet.

After a delay of several minutes another batch of missiles and bombs landed nearby, this time too close for comfort. I edged across the balcony from where, in the distance, I could see Qasioun mountain through the red mist of burning explosives hanging in the air.

We were only 30 minutes into an almost hour-long bombardment. Moments later a huge explosion forced me and three members of my family back into the house. The balcony wasn't safe.

A stone's throw away is the research complex of Jamraya, targeted by Israel in 2014, and my first thought was that this major research facility had been hit.

I clearly heard more than 40 different missiles in a barrage that lasted for the greater part of an hour.

Syrian state media reported the strikes but didn't provide any clue as to the locations. However, both the research facilities which were reportedly hit were linked in some way to research which the West claims could assist in the production of chemical weapons.

Danny Makki is a British-Syrian journalist who works between London and Damascus

Telegraph.co.uk

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