Kim Sengupta: Syrian anger will echo down through the generations

 

Share
Related Topics

Abed al-Rahman ran out to see what had happened after hearing the sound of an aircraft overhead followed by a loud blast. He hesitated briefly as he remembered his mother's warnings against venturing outside, but the sheer excitement overcame caution. He had just reached a crowd of about 30 people staring at a crater when shrapnel from a second missile tore into his legs. "I knew something really bad had happened, I could not feel my left leg at all, I just kept screaming for someone to come and help me. It was so painful."

Abed al-Rahman, 11, was not a combatant in Syria's civil war. There was no military target in the street where he lived with his family in Al-Bab, just outside Aleppo. No rebel fighters were present when the two missiles were fired. But there were regime warplanes and helicopter gunships flying and firing overhead. The regime's use of warplanes against its own people was first recorded in Aleppo about a week ago, although it was unclear then whether it had actually been bombing or flying low and fast enough to break the sound barrier in a show of force to intimidate the rebels. There is no such ambiguity about the increasingly frequent attacks since then.

Opposition activists trying to bring out dead and injured rebel soldiers from a former regime military base in Al-Bab came under repeated machine-gun and missile attack on Sunday. The pilot of the jet – possibly a Czech-made L-39 Albatross, which the Syrian Air Force uses – appeared to deliberately target unarmed civilians. Soon after firing on the camp, it fired into a residential neighbourhood. "I saw him rush out and I was worried, we have had so many attacks. I also knew they fire one rocket, wait for people to gather and then fire another," said Omar, Abed al-Rahman's 20-year-old brother. "I went out after him, but it was already too late. They got him out in an ambulance as soon as they could. Abed al-Rahman does not remember, but he was crying 'mummy, mummy, I disobeyed you and now look what has happened'.

"After the operation he started crying 'What will I do? How will I finish my school? I won't be able to play again'. We're trying to make sure that he doesn't get too depressed, we'll do what we can for him. His other leg is badly injured, but doesn't need amputation. Why doesn't the UN impose a no-fly zone like Libya? Don't they know what's going on?"

Many of us who covered the Libya conflict noted just how few people were killed or injured by Gaddafi's air force before the imposition of the no-fly zone, which extended into months of bombing. Libyan pilots appeared to go to great effort not to hit civilians or even rebel fighters, often dropping their bombs away from large groups. That does not appear to be the case in this conflict.

Abu Taieb, a commander with the opposition's Free Syria Army, was reconciled to UN inaction. Standing at the funeral of a rebel killed when a fighter jet opened fire in the Sher Osman neighbourhood in Aleppo, he said: "There is another way: surface to air missiles… We can get hold of them, but it'll mean dealing with extremist Islamist types. Our battalion does not want to do that, but we may not have a choice, we can't keep on seeing our people killed." Abed al-Rahman's brother Omar was equally despondent about outside intervention. "We can't really depend on anyone anymore, apart from God," he said.

Abed is at home after surgery. There are no specialist hospitals nearby, and inner city Aleppo – where there are facilities that can help with his rehabilitation -– is not accessible amid fierce fighting.

"I try to think things may get better for me, but it is hard. I blame Bashar al-Assad and the pilot for what happened to me" he said. "I blame Assad for sending the pilot and the pilot because he didn't have to fire those rockets. I really hate them."

So do his brothers and sisters, his friends and their friends now. The casual brutality of those flying regime warplanes has helped to ensure that implacable bitterness and division will run from generation to generation in this town in Syria.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Riyadh is setting itself up as region’s policeman

Lina Khatib
Ed Miliband and David Cameron  

Cameron and Miliband should have faith in their bolder policies

Ian Birrell
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor