Inside Syria: Residents bracing for the worst in Homs
A member of the Free Syrian Army takes his weapon from a comrade during a patrol in Idlib in northwestern Syria on Saturday.
February 19th, 2012
05:40 PM ET

Inside Syria: Residents bracing for the worst in Homs

As conservatives in Washington urged President Barack Obama to take action on Syria, CNN's Arwa Damon reported Friday that new violence was expected. And sure enough, the violence came.

CNN cannot confirm the authenticity of the footage Damon discusses, but the clip appears to show the vantage point of snipers. Reports say Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been ordering attacks on citizens.

Damon and CNN's Ivan Watson are reporting from Syria despite the country's attempt to block journalists.

Damon said residents are bracing for the worst in Homs, where the intensity of the attack by Syria's government is overwhelming. Women, children and men have been desperate to tell Damon their stories.

Meanwhile, prominent U.S. conservatives are urging the Obama administration to "take immediate action" against the Syrian regime, including "no-go zones" for al-Assad's military and "self-defense aid" to resistance forces. Fifty-six foreign policy experts and former U.S. government officials signed a letter dated Friday calling for proactive U.S.-led steps against the government. It comes as Syrian citizens and activists plead for world powers to help stop the government's bloody crackdown.

The conservatives calling for action  include Karl Rove, the former Bush administration adviser; Paul Bremer, in charge of the U.S. occupation in Iraq after the 2003 invasion; R. James Woolsey, former CIA chief; Robert McFarlane, former Reagan national security adviser; and Dan Senor, a former Bremer adviser and spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. Read the full story here.

Activist Omar Shakir told CNN he is confident the Syrian army is preparing for a massive ground invasion of the besieged neighborhood of Baba Amr, the heart of the revolt.

"Just like every day, the residents of Baba Amr woke up (Sunday) to the sounds of violent bombing, as al-Assad forces continue to use different types of weapons, bombs and rockets in their attacks," he said.

Sunday, 10 people in Homs were among the at least 23 killed across Syria, according to the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, a network of opposition activists. In the 11 months of Syria's uprising, almost 9,000 people have been killed, the LCC estimates.

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Filed under: CNN Inside Syria • Syria
February 17th, 2012
03:08 PM ET

Inside Syria: In one Syrian town, cries of defiance

Editor's note: CNN's Ivan Watson is reporting from northern Syria, where he is seeing rural communities opposed to President Bashar al-Assad's regime. Watson is one of a few reporters in Syria, where the government has been placing restrictions on international journalists and refusing many of them entry at all.

Hundreds of men and boys kneeled on the floor of a packed mosque for Friday prayers, but the solemn religious rite quickly turned into a furious rain-soaked rally denouncing Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad.

Before completing their prayers, the congregation murmured words of condolences for a resident of this small opposition-held village, Muhamed Hasmus.

Activists say Hasmus was killed Friday morning by a sniper in the nearby city of Idlib, an account CNN could not independently confirm.

The remembrance of their neighbor caused the faithful to jump to their feet and erupt with the chant "Allahu Akbar," which means God is great.

READ THE FULL STORY from CNN's Ivan Watson and Kareem Khadder

MORE from inside Syria:
Farmers, teachers, carpenters armed with rifles fear massacre


Filed under: CNN Inside Syria • Syria • World
February 17th, 2012
12:19 PM ET

Inside Syria: Supplies, hope run low in bunker where hundreds hide

Editor's note: CNN correspondent Arwa Damon is reporting from Baba Amr, a neighborhood in Homs, Syria, a city that has been a flashpoint in a months-long uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. Government forces have shelled parts of the city especially Baba Amr, a bastion of anti-government sentiment for two weeks, damaging houses and other buildings and leaving many dead and wounded.

Damon is one of the few international reporters in Syria, whose government has been placing restrictions on journalists and refusing many of them entry. Below is an edited account of what Damon and her team are seeing and hearing from activists in Homs:

In hard-hit Baba Amr, about 350 people who've fled their homes out of fear or necessity are living in a building that they've made into a makeshift bunker. Conditions are desperate.

Restricted by frequent shelling and gunfire outside, they don't have any medicine, let alone the ability to get to a hospital. Children are getting sick, and one woman recently gave birth there. They have little food some lentils and rice and a little bread.

They fled here either because their homes were destroyed by shelling, or because the firing was getting too close.

Just about everyone in the bunker says they've either lost a loved one to the violence, or have a loved one who has been detained.

FULL POST

February 16th, 2012
10:47 AM ET

Inside Syria: Farmers, teachers, carpenters armed with rifles fear massacre

Editor's note: CNN's Ivan Watson is reporting from northern Syria, where he is seeing rural communities opposed to President Bashar al-Assad's regime. He describes these areas as free of a strong government presence but says residents are concerned the Syrian army could launch a military offensive in the countryside if it's victorious in the city of Homs.

Watson is one of a few reporters in Syria, where the government has been placing restrictions on international journalists and refusing many of them entry at all. Below is an edited account of what Watson and his team are seeing and hearing on the ground:

The countryside here in northern Syria is in open revolt, and this is rebellion of farmers, of carpenters and of high school teachers.

Entire communities, villages and stretches of towns across northern Syria tell us that they have not seen the presence of central Syrian government authority in months.

They have been effectively governing themselves, and they have clearly established militias as well as pockets of what's been called the Free Syrian Army defectors from the Syrian army who have joined these villages and rural communities in opposition to the Syrian government.

As we've traveled across this region, we've gone from village to village, from small council to small council, where young men and old, sit on the ground, chain-smoking, next to Kalashnikov assault rifles, weapons they say they've gotten within the last couple of months.

It does appear that villages and towns in northern Syria have been, basically, out of government control for months now, except when government forces have tried to conduct deadly incursions into these towns that are temporary at best.

Nearly everybody we talked to was able to show photos in their cell phones of neighbors, of relatives who have been killed in some of these incursions.

FULL POST

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February 16th, 2012
06:59 AM ET

Inside Syria: Wounds ooze, doctors cry in Syrian city

Editor's Note: CNN correspondent Arwa Damon is reporting from Baba Amr, a neighborhood that has become a symbol of the uprising in Syria, where she found impoverished and shaken residents who are facing shortages of supplies and daily attacks, yet they stand firm in their opposition to the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Damon is one of a few reporters in Syria, where the government has been placing restrictions on international journalists and refusing many of them entry at all. Below is an edited account of what Damon and her team are seeing and hearing from activists in Homs as attacks continue:

Shelling had struck a medical clinic at least three times, shattering the windows. Inside, critically wounded patients were lying in hospital beds tended to by two doctors - an internist and a dentist.

The doctors said they had neither the equipment nor the expertise to help many of their patients. For example, one man would require that his leg be amputated if he were not transferred to a hospital within a day, a doctor said. The stench from the man's wound underscored the seriousness of his condition. The patient said the constant bombardment and the resulting carnage had stripped life of its meaning for him. As the man spoke, tears coursed down the doctor's cheeks.

A 30-year-old man whose brain had been pierced by shrapnel lay on the brink of death. The doctors had been able only to sew shut the wound and give him anti-clotting drugs.

Many of those who survive are taken to private homes nearby so that they can recover. Those trips can themselves be perilous, as snipers have taken up positions on rooftops in the neighborhood.

The two medical professionals are aided by 20 volunteers, each of whom has undergone 15 days of training. One of those volunteers, a young man who himself became a casualty in the shelling, died Wednesday.

"How can the world stay silent?" asked a nurse who had tried to comfort him. "They're human beings in front of us. These are not people who are made of stone."

FULL POST

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February 15th, 2012
11:37 AM ET

Inside Syria: Activists say trying to flee from homes under attack is virtually a suicide run

Editor's note: CNN correspondent Arwa Damon has reached the besieged Syrian city of Homs, which opposition forces say has been under a sustained artillery bombing for days.  

Damon is one of a few reporters in Syria, where the government has been placing restrictions on international journalists and refusing many of them entry at all. Below is an edited account of what Damon and her team are seeing and hearing from activists in Homs as attacks continue:

The thick black smoke rising across the skyline is from an oil pipeline that is believed to have been hit. We heard three explosions at around 6:30 in the morning. Shortly thereafter a thick plume of black smoke began covering the skyline here. This is not the first time we have seen these type of images emerging from the besieged city of Homs. That pipeline has been hit on at least two other occasions.

At around 7:30 a.m. local time the sustained bombardment began. We heard various sounds of artillery being fired as well as sporadic, heavy automatic machine-gun fire. This has been the status quo in Homs for more than a week now.

The Syrian military has really intensified its offensive here, especially in the neighborhood of Baba Amr. Activists say they believe the Syrian government is on a campaign to flatten every single neighborhood where there has been some sort of opposition, some sort of effort to try to stand up to this government.

Why increase in violence now?

Just to give you an idea of how intense the bombardment has been, Tuesday morning activists said they counted around 55 explosions in just the span of 15 minutes. They say that has been the norm. You can only imagine the type of pressure that they have been under, especially when it comes to trying to deal with the number of dead and the number wounded. In many parts of the city, they have been unable to get medical supplies in.

And in these makeshift clinics that they have set up, they aren't able to treat the wounded adequately because of a lack of medical supplies and because they only have the most basic medical equipment at their disposal. There has been an intensified effort on the part of the activists here to try to find various routes out of the besieged neighborhoods to get medical supplies in and to get the wounded out. Many of the wounded require much greater treatment than what people are able to provide at these clinics.

FULL POST

February 14th, 2012
10:36 AM ET

Inside Syria: Fearful residents prepare for a bloody battle

Editor's note: CNN's Arwa Damon is reporting from inside Syria , where the government has been placing restrictions on international journalists and refusing many of them entry at all. Residents and opposition activists say they fear for their lives as shelling and snipers leave them trapped.

CNN is not disclosing Damon's location for her safety. Below are dispatches from her on what she's seeing and hearing from residents in the area.

It’s an incredibly intense situation here. It’s also incredibly emotional. Anger is running at an all-time high, as are frustration and desperation. People that we've been talking to, every single one of them has some sort of horrific nightmare or story, and some of them are still too afraid to talk about it publicly with their names attached to it.

One man we met, he had four members of his family executed as government forces, he said, were raiding their village. And he wanted to tell the story – he wanted to put out the images of loved ones. He was afraid because he said at the same time his uncle had been detained.

A lot of the younger generation, we’re talking to university students, they've all had to drop out and people repeatedly keep expressing how difficult it is for them to try to keep going, because they’re quite simply exhausted and they have lost so many loved ones.

Every single step that they take of every single day involves a phenomenal amount of plotting, whether it's something simple like trying to get a loaf of bread or something more complicated like trying to get someone who’s been wounded to some sort of medical care.

Food, medicine low in Homs

In the areas where the government crackdown is at its worst, people say there are snipers positioned on every single street corner. You could hardly cross a main thoroughfare without coming across a government sniper. And then of course there are all of the tanks and the government checkpoints.

'Everyone is waiting to die' 

FULL POST

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