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. chaz1

    Terrifying that a mass murderer like this is allowed to do as he pleases with impunity. Crimes against humanity without consequence. Utterly tragic that the rest of the world can only sit and watch.

    February 15, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • us1776

      Talk to Russia and China.

      The rest of the world seems to want to stop the killing.

      .

      February 15, 2012 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • JohnH.

      If the opposition wins, we all lose. They will bring in a more radical form of Islam to the leadership. Better a dictator than Sharia law.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • us1776

      No, it's better that we let the Syrian people chose their own government.

      The dinosaur age of dictators is over.

      .

      February 15, 2012 at 8:30 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Syrian77

    "Activists" said this and "activists" said that. Has there ever been a time when news sources were using lower journalistic standards? This is a bunch of crock. You think that the Syrian army is having trouble entering these neighborhoods because all these "activists" scare them? There are fanatic islamist militants in those neighborhood with advanced weapons, including mortar rockets which they have been firing at other neighborhoods, that are fighting the army and using people there as human shields. It is a matter of time before these neighborhoods are cleansed of the thugs and murderers, and then you will see who was actually targeting civilians and blowing up homes. CNN is resorting to its pre-Iraq war tactics of beating the drums of war. Have you ever tried to talk to the residents of the neighborhoods being attacked by the terrorists? Have you talked to any of the families who have had family members murdered and their corpses mutilated by these sick fanatics? You lecture time and again about the importance of having an independent media when you are anything but independent. Shame on you.

    February 15, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
  3. leeintulsa

    well said

    February 15, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Emelia

    I may be a citizen of America. I may have lived in America my whole life. But if people are dying, anyone who won't try to help is no ally of mine. I'll buy a gun and take a plane to Syria myself if I can save just one person. Go on, you enjoy your safe, ignorant life. I'd rather die, personally, than watch others being killed without trying to help.

    February 15, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      what's keeping you?

      February 15, 2012 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • 1kureckert

      $800 from JFK to Amman.... You could be there next week. If your actions match your words, Alhamdulillah. If not, say "Astaghfirullah" and keep your bravado to yourself rather than make your sin of cowardice before Allah public for all the world to see....

      February 15, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • 1kureckert

      So you don't get confused, cross over from Jordan is next to Syria. You can sneak over from there.... Turkey or Lebanon are options as well, but I recommend going through Jordan...

      February 15, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Vic Usi

    Dictators never learn important lessons in history: "Nobody stays on top forever." "You can run but you can never hide forever." That day will definitely come when Assad will join Karadzic and Mladic in the Hague. Ii is just frustrating and unfortunate that before that day comes, many fathers, mothers and children will die.

    February 15, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Syrian77

      What about Adnan al Arour or Riad al Shaqfa, whose followers have been torturing and killing people and mutilating their corpses in Syria? Should they also go to the Hague, or are they receiving immunity because the US likes what they are doing?

      February 15, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Emelia

    Great point. Why am I still here? If you don't hear from me, I've died. I'm off to try to make a difference. Enjoy life at the expense of others.
    (And by the way, I'm ENTIRELY serious.)

    February 15, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • HardyMonster

      I can tell just from reading your bullheaded statements that you are in NO WAY capable of making it Homs alive. I did recon for 3 years (which includes a deployment) and have loads of military training/experience and I have no inclination of trying to sneak over there by myself. Having said that I'm pretty sure you are bluffing but in case you are not I STRONGLY advise sitting the hell down.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
  7. tom

    Well, don't cross Homs streets than.

    February 15, 2012 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
  8. alibbaba

    $$$$$$$

    February 15, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Bob

    Correct.

    February 15, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Tom

    I'm a firm believer that the U.S. needs to sit this one out due to the facts that A. we cannot afford it. B. we need to stop playing the role as world police and let the world sort out its own problems.

    February 15, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. JohnH.

    Not sure who to vote for here. If the opposition wins, a more radical form of Muslim government will take over, like they have in the other Islamic countries that had "Democratic Revolutions." The West should stay out of this and let them wipe each other out.

    February 15, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
  12. andrew

    Images in "idib 13 february" and "hama 14 february" are the same.SHAME ON YOU! LYERS

    February 15, 2012 at 7:49 pm | Report abuse |
  13. JB

    Revolt against your government, throw rocks, get rear end blown away, then cry about being abused.

    February 15, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
  14. bill

    Did you know that the number of millionaires has exploded in this country in the last two years?

      You know why?   BECAUSE they do something most Americans don't do...INVEST.  

    G00GLE the term ' FAST MARKET CASH ' all one term and click the first site. Go right to the 'PENNY' 'STOCK' page to see what the rich don't want you to know.

    February 15, 2012 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Mark

    With past conflicts I've usually given CNN the benefit of the doubt regarding being balanced in their reporting but this time CNN seems to be laying it on thick, bordering on bonafida propaganda.

    February 15, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
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