EXCLUSIVE | The CBC in Syria: Under siege in Aleppo

This is the first in a series of stories from CBC reporters who ventured inside Syria earlier this month to report on the brutal civil war. You can hear and see more all this week on CBC Radio and TV about the battle for Aleppo, one of the world's oldest cities.

CBC exclusive reporting from the front lines of Syria's civil war

Inside Syria: CBC's Sasa Petricic in Aleppo

The National

9 years ago
CBC Middle East correspondent Sasa Petricic reports on Syria's brutal civil war from the embattled city of Aleppo 4:54

In Syria's largest city, people are afraid to gaze into the sky.

Syria's air force has hammered Aleppo for the last three months. MiG fighter jets fire rockets. Helicopters dump barrels of explosives. And it's those residents who have tried to remain who are caught in the middle.

"My house was destroyed by an explosion," said Mohammad Kanazavah, who lives in central Aleppo. "I was very afraid."

Kanazavah's 13-year-old niece was killed in the attack, and his wife suffered severe injuries and remains in a local hospital. And there is no doubt in his mind who is at fault: the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

A CBC News team has just returned after several days in Aleppo province, near Syria's northern border with Turkey.

It is a region that became engulfed in the now 19-month uprising later than others. But it has recently seen some of the most severe violence.

Everywhere you turn in Aleppo, the scars of a brutal war pitting rebel fighters against government soldiers are evident.

Entire streets are littered with concrete blocks and rubble caused by mortar or rocket attacks. Walls are pockmarked, often from indiscriminate sniper fire.

A truce negotiated recently by the UN envoy slowed the fighting somewhat, but shelling and shooting continued in Aleppo.

"Every day, we face this," said Khaled Hafagi, referring to the near-constant bombardment of his city. "It is now normal for us to see bombs and explosions coming from the sky."

A Syrian boy walks through rubble where a field clinic once stood before it was bombed by regime forces in Anadan, just outside Aleppo. (Derek Stoffel / CBC)

Hafagi's house was hit a month ago, leaving a large hole in his bedroom wall.

He sent his wife and children into the countryside, where it is safer. But he remains at home, like most in the city, not working because of the conflict.

Aleppo, one of the oldest cities in the world, has seen much of its history destroyed by the violence.

Parts of the Old City have been reduced to rubble. The city's covered souk, its historic market, burned as the two sides fought pitched battles last month. Two weeks later, its landmark Umayyad Mosque, a UN World Heritage Site, was also totally destroyed in the fighting.

But some residents are doing whatever they can to restore a sense of normalcy amid the chaos of what is now a war zone.

An elderly man named Abed now spends his days sweeping up dirt and broken glass from the streets in the city centre.

And a group of men associated with the Free Syrian Army are organizing garbage collection, to remove mounds of rotting trash from the streets.

"The regime is trying to make life so difficult, so that the people will turn on the rebels," said Haj Omar, the man responsible for the trash collection. "I will not let that happen."

As he puts it, "Bashar al-Assad bombs, but we will rebuild."

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