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Syrian Civilians, Caught in Middle of Civil War, ‘Feel Abandoned’ by the West

November 16, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
Rebels fighting Assad’s regime have taken control of areas west and north of Aleppo. Destruction from combat is evident everywhere, with devastating damage to infrastructure, a lack of oil and little access to medical care. Judy Woodruff interviews Margaret Warner from Turkey, who spent a day in Syria talking to civilians.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And to an update on another conflict in the Middle East, the ongoing civil war in Syria.

Margaret Warner is on a reporting trip to the region. I spoke to her a short time ago from Antakya, Turkey, soon after she returned from spending the day in Syria.

Hello, Margaret.

This was your second trip into Syria in just the last few days. What did you see?

MARGARET WARNER: Judy, today, we spent most of the day in an area just from the west and then north from Aleppo, where we’re seeing a lot of fighting.

And this is an area that now is under the control or at least being held not by the Syrian military, but the rebels, Free Syrian Army, as they call it.

And all around, you could see the signs of the devastation, of the fighting that’s gone on for months and months, with burned-out tanks and bullet-ridden buildings and bombed-out buildings, even mosques. The roads are complete down to the sub-bed, some of them.

The other thing that has really been hurt is the infrastructure, whether it’s power, the lack of fuel, the lack of basic medical care, with the last hospital having been bombed out last week in this one particular area. So, people are really, really struggling there.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Margaret, what do they — what do the people say to you they want?

MARGARET WARNER: Well, Judy, they want the world to intervene. We have heard that from everyone both on the Syrian side and the Turkey side of the border.

Today, we went through a town in which there was demonstration going on by some young men and boys, all calling out actually to the Arab world to pay attention to their suffering. When we went to see the head of a local administration council, which is civilians trying to provide services, he said, you know, the world stepped in to help get rid of Gadhafi, even get rid of Mubarak. Where are they? We need the basics of life.

And we heard the same from a military commander, Colonel Abdul Jabbar Akeedi, who is head of the Aleppo military council, who said, as we know, that they desperately say they need anti-aircraft weaponry to shoot down the planes that are bringing in bombs and attacking especially civilian infrastructure to this day.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And so what do they say about how the West is responding to this?

MARGARET WARNER: They say they feel entirely abandoned. The head of — the civilian leader said to me — again said you know, the West has moved in — the U.S. and the French and the British assisted other countries when they were trying to overthrow dictators. Why aren’t they helping us?

And this Colonel Akeedi, who, by the way, we had to meet at a secret location, not where they said they were taking us, but somewhere else, because of an assassination attempt by bomb on him just a week ago, he also said — he had this theory that the U.S. in particular cares more about the security of Israel, he said, than it does about the Syrian people, and, in fact, had a whole theory about now the world’s attention is being diverted to Israel and Gaza. That’s just what President Assad wanted.

And he said, in fact, that’s why they chose this moment to attack. And while it may sound like a sort of wild conspiracy theory to us, the evidence is, it has diverted the world’s attention. Tomorrow, the Arab League ministers are meeting in an emergency meeting, but not to discuss Syria, but the Israel-Gaza situation.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Margaret, I know your reporting trip continues. Thank you, and stay safe.

JEFFREY BROWN: Margaret’s reports next week will examine Turkey’s support for the Syrian opposition and the war’s spillover into that country.

And, online, you can read her account of visiting refugee camps on both sides of the border and a story about the challenges of getting aid to Syrian women and girls who’ve been abused.