Syria uprising is now a battle to the death

Thursday, February 9, 2012
By Paul Martin

Rockets rain down on towns that residents can neither defend nor leave, as Bashar al-Assad’s forces besiege Free Syria Army

Martin Chulov
Guardian.co.uk
Thursday 9 February 2012

In the heartland of the uprising against Bashar al-Assad a grinding war of attrition has now become an unforgiving battle to the death.

The Free Syria Army has held this territory of orchards and farmland since September, during which time loyalist forces have never been closer, nor seemed more menacing. As rockets regularly thundered on Thursday into towns that residents could neither defend nor leave, the three months of freedom they had savoured now seemed illusory.

There is little left in the town in which the Guardian was based on Thursday, or in the equally deprived and forsaken villages that dot the hinterland near Homs. Electricity here was switched off two months ago, the phone lines were downed last week. And on Wednesday, contact by road was cut with Homs, Syria’s besieged third city, whose fate is seen as a dire warning of what lies ahead for the rest of the area.

Homs was on Thursday a very difficult place from which to flee. Only three seriously wounded residents are known to have made it out of the devastated opposition held sectors of the city into the relative safety of nearby Lebanon. Two of the wounded are unlikely to survive.

The rest face a desperate plight, barricaded in concrete homes that are crumbling in the face of the relentless onslaught now spreading to nearby farmland and villages. Some residents of this town say a small number of families from the heaviest hit areas of Homs, Baba Amr and al-Khalidiyeh, have managed to hole up in other areas of the city. However they can no longer speak to those left behind, who they now fear face a gruesome fate.

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