02/18/2013 - #Syria - Douma - Residential building caught fire due to MiG shelling
An Israeli air raid in Syria this week struck surface-to-air missiles and a nearby military complex on the outskirts of Damascus, as Israel feared the weapons would be transferred to Hezbollah, a US official said Friday.
Earlier reports had suggested Israeli warplanes may have targeted two separate locations in Wednesday’s raid in Syria: a military site outside of the capital and a weapons convoy near the Lebanese border.
But the US official said the strike was confined to one location.
“It was in the suburbs of Damascus,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.
“There were surface-to-air missiles on vehicles” that were targeted by the Israel aircraft, he said, adding that they were believed to be Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles.
The planes also bombed an adjacent military complex of buildings suspected of housing chemical agents, the official said.
The Israelis suspected the weapons would be transferred to Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah group, he said.
The Syrian regime has accused Israel of launching a dawn strike Wednesday on a military research center in Jamraya, near Damascus, and threatened to retaliate.
But the Israeli government has maintained a public silence on the strike.
Israel has repeatedly expressed concern that Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons could fall into the hands of Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah group, which is an ally of the Damascus regime, or other militant organizations.
CNN senior photojournalist Neil Hallsworth films an oil fire in Homs, Syria.
Editor’s note: Watch the full documentary “72 Hours Under Fire” on CNN International on Saturday at 4 a.m., 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. and Sunday at 6 a.m., and on CNN U.S. on Sunday at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. and Monday at 2 a.m. (All times Eastern)
(CNN) — Intense black smoke billowing from the flames of an oil fire blocks out the sun. A teenage mom with a one-day-old baby seeks shelter in a dimly-lit basement from a barrage of missiles and shells.
Incoming fire smashes through the wall of a house being used as an unofficial media center in Homs, the city that is the focus of anti-regime protests and Syrian efforts to silence them.
The horror of enduring the all-out assault by the Syrian military is brought vividly to life in a CNN documentary airing this weekend.
With the help of local activists, a CNN crew was smuggled into Homs, moving from house to house as the Syrian army fired missiles and tank shells.
For more than a year President Bashar al-Assad’s military had used brutal force to put down the uprising.
Across Syria, protesters demanded change — chanting “down with the regime” but it was Homs — and especially the neighborhood of Baba Amr — that became the epicenter.
Even CNN correspondent Arwa Damon, with her vast experience of reporting from war zones, had reservations about the high-risk job. She said: “I actually wrote a letter home the first time, to my family. And I went to see some very close friends as well, just in case.”
She was joined by Neil Hallsworth, a veteran cameraman who has worked in Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel, and Tim Crockett, a former special forces officer to handle security and who would also become an unofficial stills photographer.
Just getting into Homs was an ordeal that took five days for what would normally be a two-hour drive.
Damon said: “It involves a fairly elaborate process of being moved through farmlands, back roads, trying to avoid the government, ending up in various safe houses. And at every single leg, every single stop, you have a different person who’s responsible to move you on to the next one, someone who knows the details of the lay of the land around you to ensure that they can actually get you through from one point to another.”
For the thousands trapped in Baba Amr, the route was their only lifeline and CNN agreed to keep it secret.
In Homs, there was no frontline meaning there was also nowhere that could be called safe.
Damon said: “It [seems] mostly deserted, most of the buildings have sustained some sort of damage. And then you’ll see a kid peek their head out from a doorway, or you’ll see a man walking in the street carrying an A.K.”
Some of the most constant fire has been on Baba Amr where people are killed or wounded daily, and where two doctors — and one of those was a dentist — are fighting against the odds to help the casualties.
In a makeshift clinic there was a man with head injuries from shrapnel, another whose leg injury was most likely going to lead to an amputation.
The medics say the Syrian military regards the clinic as a target so they have set up in numerous temporary houses around Baba Amr, each with patients and with the doctors moving between them.
But snipers posted on rooftops above the rubble-littered streets made even the shortest of trips treacherous.
Mosques put out messages before the bombardment started, telling people to not live on the upper floors, to try to stay away from windows, and to try to find protective rooms, inside their homes.
In basements used as bunkers, civilians pray the next bomb will miss their home and their loved ones. In one of these bunkers, the CNN crew met a teenager who had given birth the day before.
Her daughter Fatimah was the face of innocence amid the hell of Homs. Her father does not know she’s been born. He left the shelter to get supplies a month ago and has not made it back. And her gran trembled as she explained how two other relatives died.
Virtually everyone in the shelter — about 300 people — had similar horrific stories of violent death.
And it was easy to learn how death could come arbitrarily and suddenly in Homs and how survival was as much luck as anything else.
Working in a home that had become an unofficial media center for the few Western journalists that have made it into Homs, a rocket slammed into the building just two floors up.
Also in Baba Amr was Sunday Times correspondent Marie Colvin who would be killed alongside French photographer Remi Ochlik just a few days later.
Throughout Baba Amr, word was spreading that a ground offensive by the Syrian military was imminent.
And for CNN it was becoming too dangerous to let Damon, Hallsworth and Crockett stay.
Damon said: “It is fundamentally unfair that we live in a world where we can go film this, report on it, and leave, knowing that the people we’ve left behind’s suffering is going to continue. Feeling as if we should’ve done more, we could’ve done more.”
Hundreds of civilians are believed to have died in the siege of Baba Amr. At least three activists involved in getting video out of Baba Amr have been killed.
At the end of February, the Syrian military broke the resistance of Baba Amr. Opposition activists claim the military carried out summary executions.
Regime forces continue to bombard other areas that oppose Assad’s rule.
Inside Syria: Supplies, hope run low in bunker where hundreds hide
Editor’s note: CNN correspondent Arwa Damon is reporting from Baba Amr, a neighborhood in Homs, Syria, a city that has been a flashpoint in a months-long uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. Government forces have shelled parts of the city – especially Baba Amr, a bastion of anti-government sentiment – for two weeks, damaging houses and other buildings and leaving many dead and wounded.
Damon is one of the few international reporters in Syria, whose government has been placing restrictions on journalists and refusing many of them entry. Below is an edited account of what Damon and her team are seeing and hearing from activists in Homs:
In hard-hit Baba Amr, about 350 people who’ve fled their homes out of fear or necessity are living in a building that they’ve made into a makeshift bunker. Conditions are desperate.
Restricted by seemingly constant shelling and gunfire outside, they don’t have any medicine, let alone the ability to get to a hospital. Children are getting sick, and one woman recently gave birth there. They have little food – some lentils and rice and a little bread.
They fled here either because their homes were destroyed by shelling, or because the firing was getting too close.
Just about everyone in the bunker says they’ve either lost a loved one to the violence, or have a loved one who has been detained.
A trip outside with members of the Free Syrian Army – the anti-al-Assad force of military defectors – shows how troublesome moving about has become. Navigating the deserted and rubble-strewn streets of Baba Amr, should you want to risk the firing, is difficult.
When they need to drive, residents, activists and Syrian Free Army members use only certain roads that they believe aren’t eyed by government snipers, and even then they have to floor the accelerator in certain parts to avoid being targeted.
The majority of residents are staying indoors or have already fled. Rubble from blasted pieces of buildings litters the streets.
Activists guided CNN’s team to homes that had been shelled and abandoned. Pieces of wall lie on the floors under holes that expose the buildings to the elements. Many rooms look like families fled them in a panic – shoes and other personal belongings have been left behind. In one destroyed bedroom sat a baby crib next to a larger bed, with a child’s bag hanging off the side.
The homes have other holes – those purposely cut in the back of buildings by the Syrian Free Army to help residents escape. Families left through these square holes, because firing prevented them from leaving through the front.
Al-Assad has denied reports that his forces are targeting civilians, saying they are fighting armed gangs and foreign fighters bent on destabilizing the government. But many accounts inside the country say Syrian forces are killing civilians as part of a crackdown on anti-government opposition.
More detailed coverage of what’s happening in Syria:
Friday, February 17: Syrian protesters hail ‘resistance’
Friday, February 17: In one Syrian town, full-throated cries of defiance
Thursday, February 16: Farmers, teachers, carpenters armed with rifles fear massacre
Thursday, February 16: Wounds ooze, doctors cry in Syrian city
Wednesday, February 15: Activists say trying to flee from homes under attack is virtually a suicide run
Tuesday, February 14: Fearful residents prepare for a bloody battle