Saturday 15 December 2018

'The deafening explosions seemed right outside, the building rattled'

British aid worker Madiha Raza. Photo: PA
British aid worker Madiha Raza. Photo: PA

Georgina Stubbs

An aid worker has described hearing "deafening explosions" and said the building she was in rattled when allied air strikes struck their Syrian targets.

In the wake of a suspected chemical attack in Douma last week, more than 100 missiles were fired in overnight raids on three facilities connected with the Syrian regime's chemical weapons programme.

US and French presidents Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron and UK Prime Minister Theresa May hailed the joint air strikes as a "success", with Mr Trump also describing them as "perfectly executed".

Madiha Raza, who works for British-based Muslim Aid, was on her third trip to the war-torn country when missiles struck a target just 8km from her hotel in Damascus. The 29-year-old, from London, said: "I was asleep and I woke up because of deafening explosions, which seemed as if they were right outside.

"I was just so perplexed because I did not know what was going on. I just could not believe how loud it was and the whole building rattled and the windows rattled.

"It continued for a good five minutes. As soon as I heard the first or second explosion I jumped out of bed and looked out of the window to see if I could see where it was or how far.

"I could see a bit of smoke but I couldn't really see anything else as it was 4am - there were some sparks."

Describing the explosions as coming "every few seconds" before they stopped, Ms Raza - who has worked in dangerous locations before including Mosul in Iraq - admitted it was an "unnerving" experience.

"I was here in February during the bombardment of eastern Ghouta, which is also just a few kilometres away from Damascus where I was staying, and that time I could hear it," she said. "But this one actually scared me."

Arriving in Syria on Thursday, Ms Raza said she knew there was a possibility of air strikes, but thought that they were unlikely.

"I also knew that if I was going to go I would be in the safe zone where most of the internally displaced people are actually arriving to, so I wasn't so worried, but I wasn't expecting it to happen as soon as it did," she said.

Pressed on what the general feeling was amongst Syrians, she said: "I think people are annoyed, irritated - obviously it is a Western intervention and people don't tend to like that.

"But because there weren't casualties this time I think it was less chaotic than it would have been if there were."

Irish Independent

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