July 31st, 2012
09:42 AM ET

CNN inside Syria: Firefight for control of army base

CNN's Ivan Watson has been traveling through northern Syria near Aleppo, where bloody battles have raged for more than a week for control of the country's largest city. Watson and the crew are some of the few international reporters in Syria, whose government has been restricting access on foreign journalists and refusing many of them entry. Check out more from CNN inside Syria.

What is the state of the rebel offensive and what are the rebels saying about their chances? Here's what Watson recently saw and heard from on the ground near Aleppo (edited for length and clarity):

With our eyewitness vantage point, we saw was a rebel offensive that started at sunset Friday night. The rebels attacked the last Syrian army checkpoint before the gates of Aleppo to the north of the city.

It was a firefight that lasted hours. And in the end the rebels overran this entrenched Syrian army position that had more than a dozen tanks. It had machine guns firing into the night sky in all directions hitting surrounding villages. (Watch more in the video above)

In the end, they overran it. And then we saw what they captured: a number of tanks, armored personnel carriers, ammunition, tank rounds. And this was not only a moral victory for the rebels but a strategic one because they now control the main exit point to the north between Aleppo, the biggest city in Syria, and the Turkish border. It's a crucial transit route. ...

Every rebel you talk to has friend, has comrades-in-arms who are inside Aleppo. And every rebel I've spoken to in the last 24 hours knows of some members of their rebel brigade who have been killed in the last 24 to 36 hours. One man told me, for instance, that he sent in three fighters with a carload of guns to distribute to the fighters inside Aleppo. And after their first stop, they were hit by a tank in their car and then - with machine gun fire - all three men were killed. So, the situation is very dire there.

As we've been driving around the outskirts of the city, I've seen truck after truck loaded with civilians' belongings, mattresses, refrigerators, children and women all clearly fleeing what they know is already a war zone. But it is likely to get much, much worse in the days ahead. ...

200,000 civilians flee violence in Aleppo

But I think the rebels realize that they have no other choice. This has been a rebellion that's been underway for 17 months. And part of what has driven the countryside - entire communities, villages, and towns - to rise up against the government is the constant refrain we hear that "This government just kills us. If we say no to them, they will just come and kill us and arrest us and torture us."

Everybody I talk to has a relative who has been detained, who has been tortured, knows somebody who's been killed at an anti-government demonstration. They say they have no other choice right now but to fight. ...

They're getting very little help from the outside world. I was shown an ammo dump hidden in a school that the rebels have, full of weapons that have been smuggled across the border from Turkey.

There were a lot of mortars, there were a lot of rocket-propelled grenades, there were a lot of machine gun rounds. But as one expert told me, that would only be good for about a half-hour's battle. And this is what these people are relying on to try to hold on to entire neighborhoods of this city.

More from CNN's Ivan Watson inside Syria:
Faces of the Free Syrian Army

Syria prisoner swap turns tense

Guns, mortars and mansions

One town's 'Street of Death'

Filed under: CNN Inside Syria • Syria • World
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Hope

    One can only guess how long it will be before the armies lose their taste for killing their own. Where is conscience, loyalty to oneself. Allepo, how many of these militant warriors of Assad are from there.

    Mental fiber that makes us who we are...

    Free Syrians,

    July 31, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. saywhat

    @Hope read Israel Shamir's article " Israel's Plan for Syria" appearing in today's Political Punch.
    Israel Shamir an Israeli officer who fought against Egypt in Yom Kipper War and is now a well known columnist and thinker.

    July 31, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
  3. StarfishPrime

    I think it would be really scary to be a journalist in Syria

    August 1, 2012 at 1:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Surge

      Yes,of course. If the journalist work with terrorists, it can be really scary.

      August 2, 2012 at 5:03 am | Report abuse |
  4. arabmediaradio

    Hahahahaha, that made me LOL!! Rebels ? hahaha this is how you name these heros ?!!!! this is what the government show you ?!! really are you serious ?! and ... the journalist said! the REBELS TOOK OVER THE Villages ?!!! ... Those Rebels ... are the people who protect these villages!!!! you guys really know NOTHING!!! about what happens over there ... and you believe that guy?!!!! Think clearly humans ... That was really pathetic ....

    August 4, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Shalima Tafreen khan

    Let us all muslims pray that bashar assad will be the last of the domineering tyranns and all such regimes come to end and the power of ruling comes in to the hands of righteous khilafa, inshaallah, as told by Nabi Sallahu Alaihi Wasallam.

    Y is not Nato helping syrians here, let me tell you that As Shams (Syria) Has been described in Quran at many places as a place for righteous people, and hence NATO will not help becoz it does want the death of righteous people.

    But as told by Nabi Sallahu Alaihi Wasallam every thing is coming true alhamdulillah and inshaallah the rest will also become true.

    August 7, 2012 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
  6. Toye kalejaye

    Let God in His infinite mercy take over Syria and enthrone the right government.

    August 18, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |