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

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

IT Technician - 1st Line

£19000 - £21000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPOR...

Special Needs Teaching Assistant

£50 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Special Educational Needs Teach...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: The SThree group is a world lea...

Year 3 Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: KS2 TeacherWould you like ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Actor Brad Pitt  

The over-50s have the real voting and spending power — so why are we so obsessed with youth?

Stefano Hatfield
 

Daily catch-up: unbuilt buildings, the new Establishment and polling on Europe

John Rentoul
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London