Skip to main content

Syrian rebels face off with regime troops in 'sniper alley'

By Arwa Damon, CNN
June 6, 2012 -- Updated 1435 GMT (2235 HKT)
  • Exclusive video shows gun battle between Syrian rebels and regime forces in Homs
  • Clashes between the two sides have destroyed Homs' once-bustling Cairo Street
  • Rebels on Cairo Street say they'll carry on fighting until 'the bitter end'

(CNN) -- Gunfire and explosions echo in the background as the 26 year-old fighter calmly adjusts his weapons.

The sounds of war, once terrifying and alien, are now utterly familiar to the young man who goes by the pseudonym Abu Wasfi.

"I used to demonstrate peacefully," Abu Wasfi recalls. "I joined the Free Syrian Army after my brother was killed".

Staring out the window with his weapon ready, he surveys the street below and the war scarred buildings across the road as he continues to tell his brother's story.

"My brother defected from the Syrian army. He defected because he was told to kill innocent civilians and given orders to shoot at demonstrators," says Abu Wasfi.

Abu Wasfi says his brother was killed defending the same neighborhood he is now trying to protect.

Syria boots diplomats from country
Who are Syria's Shabiha?
Syria: "Where have the people gone?"
Syria violence turning into civil war?

"This is his gun, this is my martyr brother's gun," Abu Wasfi says, gesturing at his AK-47 assault rifle. "I am following in his footsteps to protect the people."

Abu Wasfi is part of a rebel fighting force that says it is protecting the neighborhood of Khaldiye in the flashpoint city of Homs. This particular frontline is Cairo Street, which separates the opposition stronghold from al-Bayada, which is held by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government forces.

Your take: Should the U.S. intervene in Syria?

Clashes between both sides have rendered the once-bustling middle class shopping street into a combat wasteland. Piles of rubble and burnt out vehicles form makeshift fighting positions. Debris covers the road and sidewalk, buildings are pock-marked with bullet and shrapnel holes, and shredded store awnings flap feebly in the breeze.

Khaldiye seems deserted, but the fighters of the Free Syrian Army here say it's not just about defending residents who remain -- it's also about defending the property of those who have left.

The rebels claim that Assad loyalists would steal or destroy anything they can get their hands on, accusing them of ransacking and shooting up homes of anyone they suspect of speaking out against the government.

The local rebel commander, who goes by Abu Hadid, crawls through holes fighters smashed between buildings to be able to stealthily move around. Syrian government forces are just across the road. Shouldering a Russian-made Draganov sniper rifle, he greets some of his men in the staircase.

The crude fighting position is inside one of the rooms. A hole in the wall is covered by a slab of metal with a slit that Abu Hadid points his weapon through.

One of his men tells him to look to the left, to the balcony.

"Is it where the red and blue towels are?" Abu Hadid asks -- and then, having spotted the target, the 32-year-old fires.

Down the road at another battle position, Abu Al-Baraa has his enemy in sight. He opens fire with his machine gun.

The response from the government forces is immediate and intense.

"Give me the radio, give me the radio," Abu Al-Baraa calls out as a hail of bullets from government forces drowns out his orders.

Suddenly movement is spotted to the left.

"There is it, there it is!" someone shouts.

An armored police personnel carrier (APC) creeps into the alleyway, unleashing a deafening volley of bullets from its .50-caliber machine gun.

A rebel voice mocks the notion of a ceasefire: "Look Kofi Annan, this is Khaldiya, Homs," he says as the APC moves back and fires directly at the rebel fighting position.

Hazem, another machine gunner, says indignantly: "We can't just have a one-sided ceasefire -- they can't expect us to come under fire and not respond."

So far any attempts at diplomacy and dialogue between the Assad government and the opposition have failed. A growing number of civilians are joining the armed struggle, believing it is their only chance after having paid a bitter price these last 15 months for daring to defy the regime.

The men fighting on Cairo Street -- and many others fighting across the country -- say they will carry on until the bitter end, even if it means the uprising becomes a civil war.

Part of complete coverage on
Syrian crisis
September 9, 2014 -- Updated 1448 GMT (2248 HKT)
As a 10-year-old, this boy first hit the headlines in 1982 when he saved his cat from a fire. This year, he was reported to be a suicide bomber.
September 5, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Aqsa Mahmood,19, would listen to Coldplay and read Harry Potter books. Then this Glasgow girl became an ISIS bride.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0823 GMT (1623 HKT)
The little boy looks barely old enough to walk, let alone understand the dark world he's now inhabiting.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0422 GMT (1222 HKT)
ISIS has released video of the aftermath of a mass execution. Another video shows alleged captured Peshmerga soldiers.
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 0933 GMT (1733 HKT)
The number of people who have fled Syria and registered as refugees amid the country's civil war will surpass 3 million Friday.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
Douglas McAuthur McCain, 33, grew up in the Minneapolis area, but died more than 6,000 miles away in Syria, fighting for ISIS.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 2054 GMT (0454 HKT)
If the United States is serious about thoroughly defeating ISIS, it must, somehow, go through Syria.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1243 GMT (2043 HKT)
Jihadists have kidnapped over 140 Kurdish boys to "brainwash" them. But a few boys made a daring escape.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1248 GMT (2048 HKT)
Reports that Syrian warplanes carried out a cross-border attack on Iraqi towns is further evidence of the blurring of the two countries' borders.
June 24, 2014 -- Updated 2133 GMT (0533 HKT)
CNN's Atika Shubert speaks to a father whose teenage son joined the Jihad movement in Syria.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1141 GMT (1941 HKT)
At the start of Syria's civil unrest, Omar would rally against the government alongside his schoolmates, later taking to the streets in his hometown of Salqin.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 2117 GMT (0517 HKT)
Atika Shubert looks at the rise of European jihadists traveling to Syria and whether they soon could join ISIS in Iraq.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
The final stockpile of Syria's chemical weapons has been shipped out of the country, according to the OPCW, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
June 25, 2014 -- Updated 2025 GMT (0425 HKT)
The US isn't doing airstrikes in Iraq. Is there a vacuum for Syria and Iran to step in? CNN's Fareed Zakaria weighs in.
June 10, 2014 -- Updated 0804 GMT (1604 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports on Syrian rebels using underground explosions against the better-equipped regime.
June 9, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh returns to the besieged rebel areas of Aleppo, a pale skeleton of a city that has had the life bombed out of it.
June 2, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
Syria may be embroiled in a brutal three-year civil war, but that's not stopping the government from holding presidential elections.
June 3, 2014 -- Updated 1123 GMT (1923 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh meets an ISIS defector in hiding and gets a rare look into the group's recruitment process.
June 5, 2014 -- Updated 1610 GMT (0010 HKT)
Over a thousand Syrian refugees have turned an abandoned shopping mall in Lebanon into makeshift living quarters.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1616 GMT (0016 HKT)
More than 100,000 people reportedly have been killed in Syria since a popular uprising in 2011 spiraled into a civil war.