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.

About 1 million people live in the city of Homs. We've been hearing people have been fleeing from some areas to other parts of the city. They've effectively been living with four, five, six families to a house in areas they are not able to get out of.

A lot of these areas that the Syrian government is hitting are in fact the poor parts of the city. Baba Amr, for example, is one of the most impoverished neighborhoods inside the city of Homs.

Families are gathering in makeshift shelters that are effectively the basements of some houses. Most houses here actually don't have basements, but the few that do have become makeshift shelters, where dozens of families are gathering along with their children. These are families that are either unable to get out or don't have the means to. They are effectively being forced to try to stay put.

Even when they do try to flee activists are telling us they often come under attack. There's a great problem we've heard reported that snipers are on basically every building, making any sort of escape routes an extreme real challenge. Activists say that people just trying to cross the street, women and children, are being sniped out.

You can just imagine the situation people are under, not just from a dangerous standpoint, but the psychological impact that this is having on these families, these civilians, who are stuck in these areas unable to get to safe ground or unable to get adequate medical treatment should they be hit in these attacks.

When it comes to those who have died, even trying to bury them has become an equally dangerous task.

In many instances they have to bury those they've lost under the cover of darkness or in makeshift graves. There have been a few cases where they've tried to bury the bodies of the dead under the cover of darkness - and even in those instances people say they've come under fire.

What's even more disturbing is that the activists say since this most recent campaign began in Homs 10 days ago, they believe hundreds have been killed. They don't have an accurate count on the death toll though, and that is because they still believe countless numbers of bodies are buried under the rubble.

There are a number of buildings that have come crumbling down because of the bombardment, where activists believe there were families inside - sometimes it is their families or relatives whom they haven't heard from in days. Quite simply, they can't reach these areas.

Movement in many parts of the city during the day is just about impossible. It's virtually a suicide run to try to move around for so many people. They have to move with extreme caution, so it's hard to gauge the magnitude, the human death toll, of this most recent escalation in violence.

Again, this has been the status quo in Homs for more than 10 days now, and that is just a result of the most recent military crackdown, not to mention that for months now many parts of the city have been under siege.

That is why so many of the activists here are so desperate, trying to reach out to the international community. They are unable to comprehend how in the 21st century that this type of onslaught can be taking place in full view of the international community of global powers, of various humanitarian agencies, and yet no concrete action has been really taken to bring a true end to the violence here.

Read more dispatches from the attacks in Syria:

Inside Syria: Fearful residents prepare for a bloody battle

Paid killer in Syria describes his work

One activist's chronicle of daily hell in Syria

soundoff (256 Responses)
  1. Matt

    It is absolutely disgusting that the international community has not stepped in at this point to put an end to this, the most harshest of the Arab Spring crackdowns. When innocent women and children are being sniped for crossing the street, the government has betrayed its people and ceases to represent them. The international community, especially the United States, has a humanitarian obligation to protect these innocent people from this almost unreal form of horror, torture, and humiliation. PLEASE DO SOMETHING.

    February 15, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Duane

      Matt you are dead wrong. This is the same population that danced in the streets when the towers fell. They made it very public they supported our loss and your mad the USA doesn't jump in?
      Yes innocents are dying but where is the mighty Arab League? Where is the EU? They can handle this should they choose, but the USA needs to sit this one out.

      February 15, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ed

      This has been going on for decades in many civil wars in Africa and no one could care less. The plain fact is you can't stop every dictator in the world from killing their own people – there just isn't enough military, money, time or desire. Normally you let them kill each other till one side gives up – it may not be pretty but it is the reality of the world and is nothing new.

      February 15, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Julie

      Why? "Especially the United States". The US didn't start this, it is an INTERNATIONAL problem to resolve.

      February 15, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rick from L.A.

      Duane you are obviously not christian, and do not realize how hated the US was in the region. Our policies and our actions for the last few decades were very anti-arab and very pro-semetic. We need to show that we are not a country of self absorbed egotists who think our way is the best way. Let's show the world that we are good fair people and then maybe they will shed a tear for what happened to us in 9/1/01.

      February 15, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fed Up

      why do you say "especially the United States"? We can't save the world! It would have to be an international (UN) effort!

      February 15, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • crabman

      these people have been doing this to each other for a long time -- this will pass -- not our fight

      February 15, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      There is only one thing that other nations can do right now, and that would be to declare war.

      No type of legitimate intervention can be done because the UN (due to Russian and Chinese vetoes) will not condone it.

      Unless you are advocating for the invasion of Syria, I'm not sure what you want the world to do.

      February 15, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • nadia

      i agree with you matt. And to answer to duane nobody was celebrating in syria after 9/11. And if they showed a few who might have celebrated all over the world are as many as the neo nazi of the christian community. You cant blame a billion muslim for maybe 1-2 % who might have been happy. That way when the crusaders killed people in Jerusalem we should blame all the christians or when hitler killed jews we blame all christians. Why do you put all muslims in one category. Human beings are being killed as a fellow human we should have empathy towards them. Or then we should not call ourselves human we might as well be called animals.

      February 15, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Heartstring

      Please do some research before posting, cnn is really bad about telling the whole story. I suggest reading about the different muslim sects and why they are in conflict. Cnn immediately trys to paint a black and white picture, its not that simple. People practically rioting without checking the facts is idiotic in itself, are you really that niave you believe every news story you read blindly. Comon people, what happened to common sense.

      February 15, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Miami1111

      @Duane Pro-Assad thugs were dancing. You should know that Assad has been using anti-USA propaganda since 1970 to stay in power... don't blame the Syrian people on the acts of the criminal thugs of Bashar al-Assad.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Ami H

    Reminiscent of Sarajevo

    February 15, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dave

    Run Forest Run!! More lies by the media to make it worse than it is and further the goals of the Muslim brotherhood.

    February 15, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Joel

    I've said this before. One or two "unmarked", untraceable cruise missiles shot at/into al-Assad's "palace" just might convince him to "talk" to the Arab League and the United Nations.

    February 15, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rick from L.A.

      untraceable? only 1 country could produce those ATM, Iran is about 3 years away from making their own.

      February 15, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  5. tokyo joe

    whats the point on reporting this? No action, no help! Israel wants the regime to stay, they haven't bothered Israel so leave them alone...

    February 15, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • tokyo joe is a fool

      I think you might just have a screw loose if you think that Israel is propping up this regime.

      February 15, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Gh

    Why is it taking so much to time for the Syrian army to finish off the terrorists?

    February 15, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Emilie Tchikany

    The CNN reporter always says "activists say something is happening, or "activists said they counted around 55 explosions" etc. What did the CNN reporter actually see with her own eyes, hear with their own ears, witness ? She is supposed to be on the spot and she seems to be anywhere else in the world. Is this really the best CNN can do in 2012 ?

    February 15, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jake

      This journalist is literally one of the only international eyes in this country, almost no other news agencies have a person on the ground. The aritcle says countless times that it is suicide to try and cross the street and you are asking why she isn't walking down the middle of every street asking for interviews. Please go to foxnews.com where your level of stupidity is looked up to and leave cnn where actual intelligence is present.

      February 15, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      You expect her to be placed right in the middle of a city being bombarded by artillery and with snipers everywhere? Are you retarded?

      February 15, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Fupped Duck

    The muslim community should step up first. This is what they want. To defend their own lands. They do not want the occupiers to come again right? The UN/US will just get swept into another endless confrontation. I am disturbed at what is going on, but if we are to learn from history, we should send no forces, no men, no woman. Let a muslim organization head this effort up & we can provide humanitarian support.

    February 15, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  9. jack hayden

    (posted on YouTube, to find it, search in YouTube: Jack hayden Syria)

    To All the Young People of the World,

    Hi. My name is Jack Hayden.

    I am 14 years old and from Montreal, Canada.

    I’m writing to you about what is happening in Syria.

    Last week I wrote a letter President al-Assad asking him to step down
    and let the people of Syria live in peace.

    Since the Syrian uprising he has beaten, jailed, tortured, shot and
    killed his own people. More than 7,000 people have died,. All
    because they want freedom.

    Amongst those people tortured and killed are kids our age.

    Even though we are young we have a right to speak up and demand a
    change. It is our world also and it should be a place that people can
    live in peace and without fear.

    I’d like you to join me in speaking up.

    Please write an email to the leader of your own country asking them to
    remove their embassy from Syria, asking them to put pressure on
    al-Assad to resign and asking them to pressure China and Russia to
    remove their veto on the UN resolution to have him leave.

    We are young but we have the right to live in a peaceful world where
    everyone can live without fear.

    Please join me!

    Jack
    Citizen of the World

    February 15, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gh

      You're too young to understand what's happening. 7000 civilians didn't die in Syria. That number includes a great number of military people and the terrorists. Why don't you ask the US and Qatar to quit funding the terrorists?

      February 15, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ed

      You are indeed demanding change and are paying the price. You want freedom but in a free election will vote in clerics or radical Muslims. You ask our help then demand we leave and hate us when you get your "freedom". You want help, well talk to your Arab neighbors – they are your brothers and they should be the ones you go to.

      February 15, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  10. socalpimp

    So is it CNN position to take sides in civil war? Al Queda supports the anti Assad regime...Does CNN support terrorism?

    February 15, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rick from L.A.

      Would you rather Al'qeada use their expertise in attacking americans and our interests around the world, or go after a sadistic regime. We are not going to do anything, and these people need help even if it come from the most vile terror group ever known.

      February 15, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Santa Claus

      To "Rick from L.A." :

      Do you seriously think that al-Qaeda is going to wage a full-blown war in Syria, at the cost of its dwindling manpower and resources? Their target is America and will always be America, even if we support them in Syria against Assad. Arming the rebels will not change that. Al-Qaeda is just using the events in Syria to try to stay relevant, attract attention, and gain sympathy from the young "Arab Spring" generation.

      Both sides are our enemies. We need to let the animals take care of themselves in this case.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ed

    Even if the U.S. goes in and helps whoever these "rebels" are – we will spend a fortune, they will hate us, we will leave and they will go back to killing each other. These are Muslims that hate the West and "helping them" doesn't change anything. Always a foolish move to help those that want you dead – best to let them kill each other.

    February 15, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Santa Claus

      You are most certainly correct. Very few people on television seem to articulate reality the way you do.

      CNN, understand that Assad (backed by Iran, Russia, and China) AND the rebels (supported by the Sunni fundamentalists) are enemies. Period. We should have no interest helping either.

      February 15, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Harry Katz

    But wait... didn't Assad say it was the armed terrorist gangs he was going after and NOT the people of Homs? Why can't anyone give him the benefit of the doubt??? Why can't anyone take him at his word??

    February 15, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Barry G.

    You and your thug generals are losers, and you're an embarrassment to the human race.

    February 15, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  14. SeveRheaD

    Matt please explain why "especially the United States" needs to jump in? First, as Duane pointed out, Syria not only celebrated the death of thousands of innocent civilians on 9/11 but proceeded to burn the american flag in the very streets that are now being bombarded. Aside from this the United States has been condemning the Syrian government and voted for the international community to intervene, while Russia and China stuck their foot in the way. If you should be requesting for someone to help, you should first be requesting it from "especially China and Russia". I know the US is the love to hate country because we get involved in everything, but I would love to see us take a back seat on this one...a very far back seat. If for nothing else than to just see people like Matt realize that while the United States may not always be right or make the best decisions, we take up the role of international parents better than any country...and we are constantly criticized for it....until we sit one out, then we're criticized for not intervening. Well, US....please act as the internationl fourth cousin on this issue and leave the parenting to the Arab League

    February 15, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Barry G.

    Asaad, you and your thug generals are losers, and you're an embarrassment to the human race.

    February 15, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
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