After two and a half months of relative quiet in the liberated, opposition-controlled areas in the city of Aleppo, the government’s air force started a new shelling campaign on Aleppo’s busy neighborhoods last week. According to the media office of the civil defense teams in Aleppo, the bombing caused the death and injury of nearly 200 civilians and widespread destruction of people’s homes and businesses.
At 6 a.m. on Wednesday, September 16, military airplanes bombed Wakalat Street in the al-Sukkari neighborhood, killing four people and injuring 10. Assad’s air force also targeted the area of Talat al-Sawda in the al-Maghayir neighborhood, leaving 14 people dead and injuring another 30. Nearby, helicopters bombed al-Mashhad with an explosive barrel, killing 20 people and injuring 35. The government continued its attack on various neighborhoods the next day, resulting in 24 dead and 47 injured and an entire residential building being destroyed. In all, the death toll stands at 62 people, with 122 injured.
Fadi, 25, who works in a computer maintenance shop in the al-Sha’ar neighborhood, said “I live and work on this street. It is very busy with people and cars, because there are shops of all kinds. We heard a big explosion, and everything was suddenly covered with dust, but when it cleared, the street was covered with blood. The street was full of life just a few minutes before, and suddenly it was full of dead and injured people.”
The Syrian Civil Defense teams rushed to the targeted locations to help, but pulling people from under the rubble was a challenge. In the al-Mashhad neighborhood they spent four hours working to rescue two little girls, Israa and Maraam Dablouni, and in the process of bringing these girls out alive they found four other people dead.
“The workload and pressure was intense over the past couple of days,” said Khaled Khatib, director of the information office for the Syrian Civil Defense. “Many neighborhoods were targeted at the same time, and our teams had to cover all of these areas at once. We had a very hard time at al-Sha’ar on Thursday – our team was helping people out from under some rubble when the whole building collapsed. The owner of a shop had entered his shop to grab some things when the building collapsed, and he was one of the victims our teams had to help later. It looks like we have some bloody days ahead of us. The regime will not stop this bombing campaign anytime soon. The international community has to do something. There are no words to describe the situation,” he added.
Residents of the liberated areas are typically low-income families who cannot afford to leave. Abu Muhannad, a 39-year-old father of three from the al-Muwasalaat neighborhood, said, “The bombing is always present, and when it stops, it is for a short period of time. I wish I could move my family to a safe area where my kids could safely go to school, but I do not have enough money to move. I am a street vendor and my income barely covers our very basic needs. The roads to Turkey are closed and going to Europe is very expensive. The bottom line is that my family and I are stuck here.”
Tailor Abu Muhammad, 36, from the al-Qatirji neighborhood, said, “Since my tailor shop was bombed and completely destroyed, I have had no income. I have a family of four – three kids and my wife. Life is very hard; we have no water or electricity. The city and the rural areas of Aleppo are not safe. We have no place to go in Syria, and leaving Syria is impossible for someone like me.”
There are also those who do not want to leave Aleppo no matter what the situation is. Um Muhammad, 53, also lives in al-Qatirji. She left Syria for a short time, but her family suffered abroad, and they decided to go back to Aleppo. “My husband, kids and I left for Turkey in November 2013. Our life in Turkey was very hard. We were safe, but we did not have any income. We stayed for a little while, and then we decided to come back home. Our life is very hard here too, but at least we are among our people. We will stay home no matter what happens,” she said.
Abu al-Joud, a media activist from Aleppo, spelled it out, “Life in Aleppo is unbearable. People are living under constant bombardment and they have no services at all. The world is watching and not taking any actions. It has become clear that the regime will not accept any political solution, and that the only way to get rid of it is by force. We call on the international community to either provide the revolutionists with weapons, or to establish a no-fly zone so that we can continue with our lives. We do not understand what they are waiting for. Pictures and videos of our tragedy are all over the internet.”
Top photo: Al-Myassar neighborhood, east of Aleppo, on September 20. (Tamer Osman for Syria Deeply)