TOPICS > World

As Rebels Advance, Syrian Government Retaliates with Attack Helicopters

July 24, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
Syrian government troops faced stronger and more intense advances by rebels forces. President Bashar al-Assad's regime retaliated with heavy artillery and the use of attack helicopters. Independent Television News' Alex Thomson reports on the damage in Aleppo and Damascus, the two Syrian cities seeing the brunt of battle.
LISTEN SEE PODCASTS

TRANSCRIPT

GWEN IFILL: We turn now to the Syrian conflict.

In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the rebels were gaining ground, taking territory that could become a safe haven inside the country. On the ground, army helicopters pounded the opposition in Aleppo, Syria’s commercial center and largest city. And, in the capital of Damascus, residents were trying recover from a week of attacks and counterattacks.

Alex Thomson of Independent Television News filed this report from the capital.

ALEX THOMSON: Even as we entered, a man whispered to me, “Tell the truth. The Syrian army is killing the people.” And then he ran off.

Al-Mushtahed Hospital is close to an area of recent fighting. But wounded rebels would never come inside here. They’d be instantly arrested. The vast mural of President Assad dominates the central gallery, and every single patient we speak to here duly says they have been injured by rebel forces, like this 18-year-old Razan Azi.

WOMAN (through translator): As we left our flat, we were hit by snipers from the armed militia.

Forces Clash in Syria's Largest Cities -- Despite the use of heavy artillery and helicopter attacks, the Syrian defense ministry assured the world that they would not use chemical weapons against rebel forces.

ALEX THOMSON: Faisal Haber is 11 years old and has blast injuries. He’s responded well to surgery. Again, his mother, Fadwa, knows that the blast was caused by rebels somehow, not the Syrian army.

FADWA HABER’S MOTHER (through translator): As we got hit, we were all unconscious. So, as I understand it, he has injuries to his stomach. I was injured in my legs, and my daughter was also hurt on her back and front.

ALEX THOMSON: But it is clear across the capital the rebels had Kalashnikovs and little more. The Syrian army obviously had helicopters, tanks, cannon, machine guns and rockets.

Back in the hospital, the manager insists they have around 50 bodies, all kidnapped by the rebels, then murdered. They show signs of torture, he says. When we insist on seeing them, he gets reluctant.

Eventually, we are shown to the basement, a stinking, chaotic place where bodies lie bloated and nobody can give us any evidence of any torture or execution victims.

Clearing up in al-Qabun, in the north of Damascus, where people say 150 fighters were seen leaving only yesterday, the now familiar Syrian army pattern, pound, pulverize and then pull out as the rebels retreat.

And this is just going to go on and on and on until one of three critical conditions is fulfilled, firstly, that those supplying arms and money to President Assad turn off the tap, principally Russia, second, that defections from the military become mission critical, and the regime can’t continue, and, third, that those around President Assad decide the game is up.

And here, real support for the regime, an Alawite family returns to their house. Inam Said says: “I’m lucky the house is safe. Thank God the Syrian army was here.”

Their friend chants her love of God and President Assad. Pro-Assad celebration might ultimately prove premature.