Relentless Attacks Send Syrians Fleeing For Relief
Filed by KOSU News in World News.
August 31, 2012
Syria’s president has vowed to crush the rebels by any means; his air force has not spared towns and villages that support them. In August, the death toll topped 250 a day, according to several Syrian activists. It has been the bloodiest month in the country since the uprising began almost a year and a half ago.
The fighting between troops loyal to President Bashar Assad and rebel forces has also sparked a refugee crisis for Syria’s neighbors, with thousands fleeing for the borders.
Camped at a border post waiting to cross into Turkey, Syrian refugees tell a similar story about why they packed up and ran from home.
“Because the airplane takes the city every day, I feel terrible, horrible,” says Yousef, who’s from Aleppo province. “We are tired here.”
Like many others, Yousef decided to leave a rebel-held town. Rebel brigades have grown bolder in ambushing regime troops and tanks, but are mainly powerless against the air force attacks.
‘An Attempt To Incite People’
Just a few miles down the road into northern Syria, there was a tough fight at a Syrian middle school. The building looks pretty battered. You can see the artillery shell holes in the concrete of the building.
There’s a rebel group who are now using this as a headquarters. Abu Joulan, the commander here, says he can see the refugees heading to the border. The 29-year-old says he believes the regime is targeting civilians even more than the rebels.
“It’s an attempt to incite people against us because the moment we are gaining control over areas then it is increasing,” he says. “There are areas where there are no military battles, but they are targeting it, so people turn against us.”
The rebel base is on the outskirts of Azaz. Rebels pushed the army out last month in a series of street battles that left four army tanks buried in rubble in front of the town’s largest mosque.
The tanks have been burned and blackened, and the tank tracks have come off the wheels.
The regime loyalists are gone, but life here is hardly normal. More than 70,000 people lived in this border town. Now, only 10,000 remain. Garbage is piled in the streets, the schools are closed.
At the local hospital, the windows of the X-ray room are shattered. There is only one doctor who sees patients. The rest fled to Turkey.
The shops are mostly empty. Not much food gets delivered to Azaz. International aid is almost nonexistent; baby formula is now impossible to find. On the main street, residents line up for bread at a bakery where flour is supplied by a Turkish charity. But there won’t be enough for everybody.
Refugees At Home
The larger hardship comes from the mortars and artillery shells that land in Azaz almost every night. The Syrian military still controls an airbase about 10 miles outside town. A fighter jet dropped two bombs in one neighborhood, killing at least 60 people earlier this month.
At sunset, many here clear out of town, says shopkeeper Hamid Ajuma. That’s when the shelling often starts.
“Many people just take their families. We take a mattress, we take whatever we can,” he says. “We spend the night outdoors, and then, in the day, we come back to our houses.”
Many more are now heading for the Turkish border — about five miles away — to join the mass of Syrian refugees. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]