Eyewitness: The view from the epicentre of the Syrian revolt

Wednesday 08 June 2011 00:00

Jisr al-Shughour is a ghost town today. Nobody's around because people are afraid the army will invade the city again. We had the biggest demonstration here on Friday since the start of the problems in Syria. It was peaceful at first, but in the evening groups of armed government men arrived and the shooting started.

The next morning there was a funeral for some of the protesters who were killed. Security forces opened fire on the procession and at least nine people were killed. Then, over the weekend, 12 buses and seven army tanks came.

When they approached the villages near Jisr al-Shughour, people formed human shields to prevent them from entering. A soldier, who later defected, told me that his commanding officer had said they were entering the village to confront armed gangs. But when they arrived, the soldiers were given orders to shoot at the peaceful demonstrators. That was when the defections happened.

A lot of the soldiers refused to obey the orders to shoot. The army couldn't control the situation and sent a helicopter to attack the soldiers who had defected.

I was working as a volunteer in an ambulance that was moving between Jisr al-Shughour and Freeka, a village four miles away. The helicopter was flying above the area, shooting at the defectors and at the village. It was a heavy battle. My ambulance was hit.

I don't know how many soldiers defected, maybe 100. On Sunday, a military intelligence unit entered Jisr al-Shughour and shot at the demonstrators. Four people were killed, most of them shot in the head. I was at one demonstration in front of the intelligence headquarters. There was an exchange of fire inside and in the evening there was a huge explosion. During the fighting, some of the secret police defected and I heard that they had blown up the intelligence building. One of the defectors said they had orders to keep shooting until the last bullet.

The story about 120 security people being killed is not true. Any exchange in fire happened between the troops and those who defected. We heard the army was coming again on Monday, so many people left.

The witness was interviewed by Khalid Ali. He spoke anonymously because of fear of reprisals

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