bab amr

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SYRIA. March-April 2016. Aleppo and Homs governorates. What war brings.

(1) The Salaheddin district of Aleppo, which was then only 50% under government control. Streets are blocked off with rubble and a bus.

(2) A view inside the ancient Souk of Aleppo, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

(3) Destruction inside the former Maronite Cathedral of Aleppo.

(4) A view of the destruction in Homs.

(5) The ancient cemetery in the Bab Amr district of Homs.

(6) A defaced statue lies amongst holes left by the controlled detonation of mines planted by ISIS militants in central Palmyra.

(7) The tarmac of the road leading into the centre of Palmyra, torn open by mines laid at 50-meter intervals by retreating ISIS militants. These could not be deactivated and had to be detonated by Syrian and Russian bomb disposal teams.

The killing fields in Syria spread quickly. Blood has spilled from streets to neighbourhoods, urban centres out to the countryside, and eventually to ancient ruins. No corner of the country has been spared. Hundreds of thousands have been killed and millions have fled internally, crossed into neighbouring countries or Europe, exacerbating a global refugee crisis.

Syria is now the land of both the living and the dead.

Photographs: Lorenzo Meloni/Magnum Photos

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SYRIA. Aleppo & Homs governorates. March 2016. While Syrian refugees arriving in Europe receive most of the media’s attention, two-thirds of dislodged Syrians are IDPs (Internally Displaced Person). As of now, more than half the population of Syria (around 22M) has been displaced, meaning that more than half of Syrians are refugees.

At least 500.000 have already perished. Syria has become the land of both the dead and the living.

(1) A family living in one room in a former university building, converted into housing for IDPs from surrounding districts, in Aleppo.

(2) An internally displaced woman holds her baby in the building where they now live in the Salaheddin district of Aleppo.

(3) (4) (5) Internally displaced persons live in a former school, converted into a refugee centre by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, in the Bab Amr district of Homs.

Photographs: Lorenzo Meloni/Magnum Photos

The Free Syrian Army announced Thursday that it was staging what it called a tactical retreat from the stricken Bab Amr neighborhood in the Syrian city of Homs, citing concerns for the welfare of civilians and the lack of sufficient weaponry to withstand an escalating offensive by better-armed government troops.

The move came a day after Syria’s army launched a fresh push to retake Bab Amr, which has become a powerful symbol of resistance to the regime led by President Bashar al-Assad. Bab Amr has been under siege by government troops and bombarded on a daily basis for nearly four weeks.

In a statement posted on a Facebook page run by Bab Amr activists, the rebels cited dire humanitarian conditions in the area and called on the Red Cross to be allowed to deliver humanitarian aid to an estimated 4,000 civilians who remain trapped in the neighborhood.

“We, the Bab Amr brigade, have decided to strategically withdraw for the sake of the civilians remaining inside the neighborhood,” the statement said. “The humanitarian situation is at its worst, as there is no food whatsoever, no medicines, no water and no electricity. There is no communication in the area thus making matters much worse.”

The statement added: “We are also lacking in enough arms to defend the civilians.”

Interview with Syrian activist in Bab Amr

Today on All Things Considered we spoke with a Syrian activist from Bab Amr, Homs, who goes by the name Abo Bakr. You can read and listen to parts of the interview on the Two-way blog, but since he gave a lot of interesting details that did not make it to air I thought I would publish a raw transcript of the full interview here:

On the situation in Bab Amr:

I’m in Homs in Bab Amr. There is intensive shelling since the early hours of morning. Snipers are located in high building around the neighborhood. Bab Amr is a middle class neighborhood, houses here are either one story or two or three stories. It’s very rare to find a house of three or four stories. This makes it easy for snipers to kill people. They are entertaining themselves by killing people in front of them in addition to shelling us from 5-7km distance. Rocket launchers are located in Aisoun village and Baath University and military college.

How the foreign journalists were killed:

We were at the media center. We were bombed yesterday with 25 rockets. We were not targeted. Nobody knew our location. This location is secret. We were hosting six foreign journalists. We were hearing so many explosions around us, but then the sounds got closer until one rocket hit the backyard of the house. Then rockets started hitting the roof, and that resulted in the roof falling down completely.

Yes, yes, this is true. I was with them when we got hit. We were working in this place. When shelling intensified we wanted to put on clothes and helmets, but there was only one helmet. One of the journalists, Paul, was the one who wore the helmet. We decided to leave the building in groups. First group was made up of 4 activists. That group went to the opposite building. The second group began to prepare to leave, that group had the journalists who were killed, and William and Edith. There were the 2 foreign journalists who got killed, and three activists who got wounded in addition to Edith and Paul who got severely injured.

We were the last group. The first group went out first to make sure the way is safe. They went out as human shields for the journalists. They went to protect them. The second group was hit: 2 were killed and 2 were injured. We had William left. I was with William and Edith. Edith was injured. We were holding each other, the rockets were falling like rain above our heads. We hid in the safest area of the house which is the bathroom because it had two roofs. It was me, my colleague, William and Edith, and another activist who got injured. He is a videographer. There was also the journalist Paul, and he was injured in his thigh and side. When we felt the shelling has slowed down, I carried Edith and the others carried Paul because we though his injury was more serious. He had a big shrapnel in his thigh, but it turned out Edith injury was more serious. We carried her to the nearest car and and took them to the hospital. Right after we left, two rockets hit the house immediately. 

Fear and starvation:

Intensity of shelling did not change since day one. The same attack since the first day. Now I’m sitting in this house and I could be killed at any moment like what happened yesterday. One rocket could kill me, this is possible, this is very possible. The chances of this happening is 90%. At any moment now a rocket could hit. Yesterday more than 25 to 30 rockets landed in less than 5 minutes. 

It is as if we are living in prison. But an open prison. A prison where if anyone goes out they could get killed. People are surviving on the water they have in their houses. Since 20 days, we have no bread. There is no food. No clean water. We collect rain water and boil it then wait until it gets cold to drink. As for food, we eat anything we find in the house, but I don’t know when we will have to be patient and wait like this. We just eat one meal per day. I’m here with a group of young men in the media office, and all we have is some light food. Sometimes we don’t even eat. Yesterday and the day before I did not eat. The day before that I only ate onions and garlic.

Cheap blood

Imagine how the Syrian blood is so cheap. The Syrian blood is so cheap. More than 10,000 men, women and children were killed. It is not a small number. These are massacres. These are massacres. And then for one person, American, French or European.. You see now how there are many statements from Europe for two persons. This man and woman are good friends of ours. I’m not talking badly about them, but just look how cheap the Syrian blood is for the international community in general and the Arab community in specific. These journalists are our friends and we know them personally. Many journalist came here to us in Bab Amr and the relationship between us is more than just friendship or work. These are friends and more than friends. We cried for their deaths a lot.

Message to ‘Friends of Syria’ meeting in Tunis

Our message to the international community is to provide human corridors for us here in Bab Amr. We have more than 500 martyrs in the last 20 days. This is a huge number. We lost many friends and brothers. Families and children. I don’t just want to say they were killed, they were shattered by these rockets. You walk here in Bab Amr and foul odors are everywhere because of the body parts scattered here and there. There are many bodies under the rubble that we can’t get out. The situation is very tragic. We demand human corridors for medicine and food and clean water. We just want to live as half-humans, not even full human beings. 

On military intervention:

The only solution for the Syrian revolution is the military solution, and to have a no-fly zone. After the no fly-zone we must be supported militarily. This is the only solution for our revolution to succeed. Bashar al-Assad has no mercy. He kills citizens from 7km distance. There is no clashes between the Free Syrian Army and his forces. They are mercenaries. There are no clashes, he is just shelling us from 5-7km distance in Aisoun village, Baat University and the military college … Bab Amr is a residential area. There is only citizens. Unarmed people. This is Bab Amr. We just want a no-fly zone and limited military support. With out strong wills we can defeat Bashar al-Assad.

President al-Assad: Restoring Security, Safety, Imposing Rule of Law a Must
Mar 27, 2012

HOMS, (SANA)_ President Bashar al-Assad paid an inspection field visit Tuesday to Baba Amr Quarter in Homs Governorate.

President al-Assad met the inhabitants of the Quarter, earlier agonized by heavily-armed terrorist groups which terrorized the inhabitants, asserting that the State would never hesitate to carry out its duty and responsibilities in protecting its citizens.

“The State has given those who deviated from the path of right the best of possible opportunities to backtrack and return to the Homeland, and to put down their arms; they ,however, rejected seizing these opportunities and further increased their terrorism. So, there was a must as to work for restoring security, safety, and for imposing the rule of law,” underscored President al-Assad to hundreds of the citizens who gathered around him and complained from the heinous acts perpetrated by the armed terrorist groups.

President al-Assad, during his field visit and inspection of the destruction inflicted upon the Quarter by the armed terrorist groups, called for the rallying of efforts redoubling work as to quickly reconstruct destroyed buildings and rehabilitate the infrastructure, especially schools, electricity grids, and medical establishments.

President al-Assad, during his meeting with some army and police force members, lauded the sacrifices and efforts exerted by Syrian Army and Police members in defense of the Homeland and its stability and security.

The inhabitants of the quarter, who chanted slogans of loyalty, and amity to president al-Assad, asserted that the terrorist acts by the armed terrorist groups have but increased the inhabitants’ commitment to their Homeland, and care about its security and stability, highly appreciating the Syrian Arab Army, which restored safety and security to their Quarter and City.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3et8fKUqTY&feature=youtu.be