Paul Conroy: The bombing in Homs shows we need a treaty

Such sustained fire is hard to maintain; where was all the ammunition from?

Share

As Marie Colvin, the award-winning Sunday Times reporter, and I heard the first ferocious bombardment of Baba Amr, a tiny suburb of Homs in Syria, our first thoughts were that the intensity of the attack could not be sustained. We were both wrong. Our luck ran out when up to five Russian-made Katyusha missiles hit our media centre. Marie was killed instantly, as was a French photojournalist, Remi Ochlik. I sustained serious leg injuries.

The survivors of the attack in February – myself, Edith Bouvier, William Daniels and Javier Espinoza – were hidden in a house close to the field hospital where we endured a lengthy bombardment. It gave me an opportunity, as a former artilleryman in the British armed forces, to ascertain exactly what the Syrian army was firing into Baba Amr. Much of the weaponry at the disposal of the Syrian command is Soviet-era. It is estimated that at the time, the regime had 4,550 tanks at its disposal – 1,600 of these being the more modern T-72, with a shell size of 125mm. If you add the regime's field artillery, mortars, howitzers and rockets, such as the Grad and Katyusha, that's a lot of hardware and munitions.

One of the most terrifying of the weapons used in Baba Amr was the 240mm mortar. The shell is about 1.5m long and has a weight of 130kg with 32kg of explosive. It can also have a delayed fuse, allowing it to penetrate the building completely before detonating. I lay there and listened as salvos of three of these mortars were launched at a time, 18 hours a day, for five days. In my estimation, even the British artillery would find such a sustained rate of fire hard to maintain. The question was, where was all the ammunition coming from?

On my escape and return from Syria I was asked to take part in a discussion in Westminster entitled "Syria: What Next?" One panel member, Ivan Volodin, was there to represent Russia as the head of the foreign policy unit.

I asked Mr Volodin if he would take a three-part question from me and he agreed. Was he aware that Russia was providing heavy weapons and munitions to the Syrian regime? He said yes. Was he aware weapons were being used against a largely unarmed civilian population? He said yes. Did Russia have any thoughts on stopping the supply of these weapons? He said no, paused, and then added: "If we don't, somebody else would anyway."

It cannot be right that such answers are the acceptable face of nations when it comes to life-and-death matters such as arms supply and control.

The writer is a photojournalist

React Now

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

Retail Business Architect

Flexible for the right candidate: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: I have a fa...

Calypso Developer

£500 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: Calypso Developer Calypso, J2SE, XML, ...

IT Developer/Analyst

£35000 - £36000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A market leading financia...

Pricing Manager, Finance, Edinburgh, £250-350p/d

£250 - £350 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is cur...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Would you fork out to spend time on Sting's Tuscan estate?  

Happy to pay for the privilege of picking olives? Then Sting might have a job for you...

John Walsh
Clockwise from top: Zafran Ramzan, Razwan Razaq (main picture), Adil Hussain, Umar Razaq and Mohsin Khan were sentenced for grooming teenage girls for sex in 2010.  

Nothing can make up for the trauma of Rotherham's abused young girls, but many more heads must roll

Jane Merrick
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis