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. Shaughn


    February 15, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. jam

    Hey OBLAMO!!!! Double standard??/ You helped Egypt go sour...then it was Lybia......what about Syria...NO better yet STAY OUT you incompetent President. Talk about getting us into another war. You've been pretty active in that department....but no new jobs for Americans....just paying off unions with money you don't have in an attempt to buy votes for November...We've seen and smelled enough...No Oblamo in November!!!!

    February 15, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tbone

      Wow...have you been drinking the cool-aid a little too much? What's your resolution?

      February 15, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • @Jam

      Typical GOP rhetoric. Castrate the president for NOT doing something, then when he does tell him how stupid he was for getting us involved. Try 2 unfunded wars from Bush, running in the trillions....vs. libya which lost 0 US lives and was successful. Osama Bin laden....oh yea Obama got him too. Jam you will die a slow death.

      February 15, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Josh

      @ Jam: Do you understand why we're not engaging in military action now? I mean, do you really understand the situation from a military standpoint and the implications of taking hostile action? No, you don't. You don't understand because you're ignorant...but with an opinion. Stop posting here, you're lowering the collective IQ of the rest of us.

      February 15, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • LK2

      Oh nice! Now you want OUR soldiers to go go Suicide Syria? And you can disrespect Obama all you want, but it was not HIM who got us into this situation! He got all the crap that was leftover from BUSH! And Obama's trying to clean it up the best he can. True, not everyone will agree with what ANY President does....or doesn't do, but he can't be blamed for the the economy and job situation. . Truthfully, I HATE ALL politicians. They are all lying, scheming, no-good-for nothing buttholes! But... I will stand by Obama on this one. HE didn't create this mess....it was passed over to him.

      February 15, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • hightower

      Jam you're an idiot, go back to your trailer and eat some mayonaisse sandwiches

      February 15, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Shaughn

    This isn't about politics or pointing fingers. It's about what each of us can do within our control to actually make a difference. Spending time pointing fingers, complaining and theorizing is not going to get the job done my friends............

    February 15, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jokers to the left, clowns to the right here we are stuck in the middle again

    Ron Paul would know what to do.

    February 15, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • abas

      half joker half clown you won't help us too

      February 15, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  5. steddie

    im really glad CNN sent someone into this just to get the story.

    February 15, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. More info needed

    This problem is deeper than what is being shown on the news and what people are talking about. They have China and Russia standing in the way of helping these people. China and Russia are no 3rd world countries, they are world powers like the US. We need the FULL story, FULL disclosure on what they know and why they will not support helping a supposed ally to them. I trust it is not all about selling them weapons or goods. There is more to this story than MSM is telling.

    February 15, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott N

      There is more behind the story. While gathering bits and pieces of information I believe the only reason Russia and China voted at the UN the way they did because they didnt want it to backfire on them when there country ends up in some type of revolution.This is just my opinion. I would like to know more.

      February 15, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Shaughn

    Sorry guys I have to go to actually get something done. Sure its important to ask Do we have the resources, the money, and all the other questions, but there comes a time, when women and children are getting their heads blown off daily that these things take little importance to me as does debating politics and pointing fingers. These are serious issues, we are a superpower and there is/was a reason we got this way which was not by turning our backs in these situations, checking all the boxes up front and getting all the right approvals first.........We got here through, action, leadership, getting things done and doing the right things for the right reasons............some of us actually still believe in these principles will go to our grave fighting for them...........

    February 15, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ootif

    WHere are all the bloggers that hated the Occupy Activist. Im sure they love this kind of violence for people who try to stand up for themselves. I dont see MITT or NEWT or RICK making any bold statements about this either.....COWARDS!

    February 15, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Emile Porselli

    Fact of the matter is the Assad Regine is batlling and killing "armed groups" not innocent women and children. These so called armed gangs are also responsible for the civilian deaths just as much as is the Regime is , since civilians get killled when they are caught in the cross-fire. Bassar Assad would not have needed an army if all he was facing were peacefull protesters, Even in any "democratic" country you run the risk of being killed if you take up arms and rebel against the authorities. I think they both sides should sit down and talk rather than fire guns. And NATO should definately stay away, especially after the mess and criticism they got into in Libya after taking sides rather than stop the fighting

    February 15, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shaughn

      Emile, I respect your opinion but strongly disagree that is just isn't as black and white as you portray it to be......

      February 15, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. US MC

    We need to stay out of this! First of all we are broke and can not afford any more wars...second of all..we should not put our men and women in harms way for muslims who will eventually want to kill us anyway...like when we helped the afghanis against the soviets then they crashed airliners into our buildings to thank us!

    February 15, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alice nWonder

      Well Said. To them we are deemed as infidels anyways, and are just waiting for a reason to kill more infidels. So why bother to give them that chance. Let them be a Martyr in their own backyard while we on the urgent matter to clean our own backyard and prosecute those who steal money from the 99% of the people in order to give to the 1%.
      Bonus : Who said what in which movies. :to the 1% OFF WITH THEIR HEADS .......
      The Classic of all times : FRANKLY MY DEAR, I DON'T GIVE A DAMN.
      And for the Humanitarian : You need a small fish as bait to catch the Big Fish.... And Assad till now is still a small fish .. So hold off the Big Guns until you stare the Big Ones in the eyes ... 😉

      February 15, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  11. copperhead44

    I was thinking of taking a vacation here sometime this month, I heard the smell in the streets is delightful!

    February 15, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  12. whoknows

    Does anyone wonder where Syria is getting all those shels , there seem to be contiued support for artillery to assad.
    perphaps fund for the rebels is justified.

    February 15, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Ron

    Hey why can't some of those activists poke out on the roof and take out the sniper?
    They hate America and Americans, they hate their own government, so let them go after the government like they would go after us if they had half a chance.

    February 15, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ken

    I'm not from the US but if you want the US to have troops on the ground there vote in the Republicans. Even people from outside your country know the Republican's historey...which is engaging in war.

    February 15, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  15. honest abe

    I'm sorry but when you are carrying RPG's, AK-47s, etc... you are not a civilian. you have engaged in a war with the syrian gov't and they are kicking your butts. if the rebels were winning we wouldn't be hearing this type of journalism. if the syrians want 'freedom' – fight for it with syrian blood not american blood. interesting though how the majority of syrians support their gov't. the media wouldn't want you to know that.

    February 15, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Emile Porselli

      couldn`t have said better myself. I agree they are not innocent civilians and the media should stop siding with them , Chian and Russia see this, and I can;t understand why the so called Western Countries"don`t.

      February 15, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
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