Inside Aleppo: Rebels repulse Syrian tanks, civilians dodge shells (+video)
Monitor reporter Scott Peterson reports from the Aleppo neighborhood of Salaheddin that the rebels are impeding the Syrian Army's ground progress, pushing them to use more deadly tactics.
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Ambulances brought more and more civilian wounded as the day ground on. There were older men and women caught in their homes in the deluge of bombing, a boy bleeding from his trousers, and civilians pierced by snipers' bullets.Skip to next paragraph
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One medic stepped out of the treatment room with one hand colored red and shouted, disbelievingly, "This is civilian blood!"
"All the governments of the world are against the Syrian people," he exclaimed. "We are not terrorists, we are men."
An exhausted medical assistant sought to dispel the official line from Damascus that the uprising had been hijacked by Islamists. "This is not a religious revolution, it's a Syrian revolution," he said. "Some people have long beards, but they are good men, not terrorists. They believe in Syria."
One 120mm mortar shell landed less than a block from the field hospital, just as an older wounded man had been wheeled outside to be taken elsewhere. As the blast rocked the scene, he could only raise a hand slowly to shield his face. He was then wheeled back in, to wait for a gap in the shelling.
Outside, terrified families raced across streets looking for better shelter. Those who got to the makeshift hospital – some of them found and escorted by FSA soldiers tasked with protecting civilians – were visibly shaken by their ordeal, cradling children, sometimes weeping.
"We are here because from morning the Bashar al-Assad regime has burned and destroyed all things," screamed one woman, sitting in a room with three other families, waiting to be taken to safer place.
"We were running on the street while the bombs were falling," said one man. "The Free Syrian Army protected us, and brought us from our houses."
"The FSA will save us, and God save them!" shouted the woman, before launching into a loud prayer. Another family entered the room, looking shocked.
"There is no safe place in all of Syria; all the streets are under attack," said the first woman. Then, as a series of rockets impacted not too far away, she addressed the newly arrived family: "What you hear now is nothing! You should expect more."
The man came up to this reporter and pleaded: "Please let all our words be published."
Another family man made clear his view of Assad's aim, one that echoes repeatedly in this rebel stronghold: "He is trying to kill all the people."
Is time on the rebels' side?
After the first day of the government assault, Abu Omar – the rebel who killed a Syrian soldier early in the morning – was optimistic that time was on the rebel side, given the state of Syrian forces he left behind when he defected several months ago.
"When I was still in the regime army, sometimes we would go four days with no food or electricity, and that makes soldiers afraid and weak," he says. "But they have been an army for 40 years. We can't win this war just like this," he says, snapping his fingers.
Several days ago Abu Omar was contacted by a Syrian soldier from his old unit, one who had had enough. He and 10 others wanted help defecting. Two days ago that number jumped to 20.
More weapons arrive
Sitting on his mattress after midnight, as artillery shells still fell on the neighborhood – some close enough to break glass nearby – Abu Omar detailed the state of play.
The bombardment "shows [the Army is] weak and helpless; it shows they can't get into Salaheddin," he said. "More power is coming, more weapons, more guns."
Indeed, by the next morning the weapons store had been replenished with fresh crates of ammunition and an out-of-the-box Dushka-style heavy machine gun.
But on the sidewalk outside the Salaheddin field hospital was a body wrapped in a bloodied white shroud, waiting to be taken away – ironically under graffiti which read: "Our Free Army is our guardian, after God."
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