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October 06, 2012

Residents of War-Battered Aleppo Struggle to Survive

by Scott Bobb, Sebastian Meyer

Aleppo, Syria's most populous city, which saw its historic market go up in flames in recent days - has been an epicenter of fighting in Syria's 18-month-long conflict. 

Government snipers have been shooting people in the streets. Thousands have been killed in Aleppo in the past few months.

Parts of the Old City, a UNESCO heritage site, have been heavily damaged as government forces bomb areas they do not control.

Abu Omar, who commands a brigade of the rebel Free Syrian Army, says the rebels had hoped to drive the government troops from the city by now, but this has not happened.

"Since the Eid at the end of Ramadan two months ago we wanted to take all of Aleppo and reach Damascus but the lack of ammunition and the rockets from the jet planes have prevented us," he said.

In a nearby residential area, people line up to buy bread despite mortar shells exploding a few kilometers away.

Taxi driver Abu Hedar wants to leave, but has to stay to care for his cousin who is wounded and cannot be moved.

"Life is miserable here. People are leaving," Hedar said. "There is no food or drink. When there is bombing, people run away to the villages or into their basements."

​​Abu Hedar adds that whether he lives or dies, it is his destiny.

In another neighborhood, factory worker Abd al-Naser says of course he is afraid. At one point he took his family to a village outside the city.

"We were 50 people in a single room with no beds, no water, no electricity. So we had to come back," al-Naser said.

The Bustan al-Bashr neighborhood on the front line was bombed on this morning.  A rebel checkpoint was probably the target.  A government war plane circles above, firing automatic cannon shots.

This neighborhood is now empty. Most residents have fled. They have joined the 200,000 refugees in neighboring countries or the nearly two million people displaced inside Syria by months of civil war.