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. DeeNYC

    Is this the article about muslims killing each other?

    February 15, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pips

      Mostly yes, but 12% are also Christian. Which is quite a lot all things considered.

      February 15, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • dc3gal

      This is about humans killing humans and it is disgusting that this is happening in this day and age. I wouldn't want to be around when and if, God forbid, the north American continent suffers from this.

      February 15, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. nomoreinvasions

    "Crossing a road in Syria is suicide"
    Crossing a road in the US is suicide, 70,000 injured and 4,500 killed in 2010.
    50,000 Americans killed each year driving their cars.
    What's the point of this so called story? You can get killed crossing or driving on a road? More get killed in the US.
    "The number of pedestrians injured in motor vehicle crashes soared 19%, to 70,000 in 2010". NHTSA

    February 15, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      This is quite possibly the dumbest statement I have ever read on-line

      February 15, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • PCola Vet

      Nomore that is about the DUMBEST freaking post I've ever seen. That's the ENTIRE US over a year period idiot. Syria is about 1/10th the size of the US, if that. How about thinkiing before you show everyone how stupid you really are.

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

      There is a MASSIVE difference between accidental death, and intentionally killing civilians. WOW.

      February 15, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • matt houston

      You just made yourself look very very stupid.

      February 15, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • dc3gal

      There is a choice to crossing a road or driving a car. These people can't move because they are pinned down with gun fire. Do you have a clue what that is like or do you want to try to equate this to more senseless numbers?

      February 15, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • conradshull

      Why'd the moron cross the road? To use the name, "nomoreinvasions" in a CNN Comment board.

      February 15, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joel

      Describing this bozo as a moron is degrading to all bozos and morons.

      February 15, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Indinusa

    Officials, please take notice of these atrocities and take action!

    February 15, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Wells

    Obama’s and Untied States leadership is in question by allowing Assad slaughter it own citizens.

    February 15, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      since when and where is it written that USA is responsible for the entire world peace>? Even though i love to see action taken against the government over there it has to be approved by the UN. first.

      February 15, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wells

      Since early nineties when Soviet Union collapsed and United States was declared to be the world's only super power.

      February 15, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jimmy Crack Corn

    So after all the civilians are dead, who's going to pay taxes in that country?

    February 15, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Harry from Va

    The reason why no one from the "Super" Powers are helping these poeple unlike Egypt or some other countries is. One they have no resources to give us. Two the government has backing by other big nations. In essence US and Great Britian will use it as political power against Russia and China in another date. Russia and China are helping the government because they get money from Syria for the weapons they sell. Its the same reason France didnt want us to invade Iraqi this last time. They were the number 1 exporter of weapons to them before the invasion. How much is a human life cost ask the weapon manufactures that question. A price of a bullet by my guess.

    February 15, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • conradshull

      Egypt has no resources of use to the US

      February 15, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  7. TheMendicantBias

    I really wish we didn't get involved in Iraq and Afghanistan so heavily so that we could help out in places like Syria.

    This is really bumming me out. Before you say 'go enlist,' let me tell you that I'm already in USAR ROTC.

    February 15, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Annoush

    Really? Not one post offering condolences and demanding action on our part? When we said "Never again" after the holocaust, apparently we meant...except for Rwanda, except for Cambodia...except for Sudan...this is unbelievable. I know we aren't the global police, but there are no powers in the world available to combat these forces? Children, adults, women, men, the elderly being mutiliated, sniped, and burned alive by Syrian forces. There is never an excuse for standing by.

    February 15, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      To compare a civil war to that of the Holocaust is complete ignorance.

      February 15, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  9. sml

    It does not matter what Obama do or dont do in Syria it would be incorrect in the eyes of the right wing.Whats the Arab world is doing watching fellow Muslims killed in cold blood – they need to take action.

    February 15, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  10. africa

    americans wants to go everywhere but africa.

    February 15, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Sami

    It breaks my heart to see Russia say this is a Syrian problem for the Syrian people to solve-when all the weapons of the Assad regime come from Russia. But, the Syrian people are not cowards. They will not give in to fear!!!

    For those of you who think it doesnt matter, just remember Iran is behind the Assad regime developing nuclear weapons which can land in the US-Washington to New York.

    February 15, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • nn

      you forgot to mention the terrorist who are attacking the government and destroying the country

      February 15, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • columbus

      I'm so tired of the Iran threat rhetoric, Iran does not nor will they ever have the capability to attack the mainland USA, even if they did, we have anti missile defenses to take out their only weapon. All I ran would accomplish in launching a nuke at us, would be their own annihilation. Same goes for a launch against Israel.

      February 15, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  12. columbus

    Why is this a responsibility of the US? Isn't it a mission for the UN? If the UN had any validity at all, they would intervene to provide safe zones and humanitarian relief. They don't have t make a political statement. The UN is useless, get it off US soil and abolish it.

    February 15, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  13. sdfs

    Reminds me a Sarajevo. Go out to the street and you get hit quick.

    February 15, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  14. africa

    obamacould bring jesus back & the far right would scream VOODO.

    February 15, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jaime - Los Angeles

    with great power comes great responsibility. To call them terrorist would be the same as calling the confederates terrorist during the American Civil War. The difference here is that you have a regime with all the weapons and ammunition kills the very people it is supposed to represent. The international community wants to take action but the two countries with veto power either don't want to lose a wespons customer or simply save face from its own history.

    Syria buys weapons from Russia and China doesn't want to be a witness of another libya. I think it's because of the hypocritical message they would send by supporting a revolt by the people of its respective countries yet China kills its own people in Tiananmen Square.

    February 15, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • columbus

      Once again, nothing is stopping the UN from moving forward with humanitarian aid, it doesn't need Russia's or China's approval.

      February 15, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
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