Skip to main content

In Aleppo, the line between life and death is thin

By Ben Wedeman, CNN
August 13, 2012 -- Updated 1547 GMT (2347 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Death by a sniper's bullet strikes Hassan, a shopkeeper
  • He and his wife had come to Aleppo to help relatives escape
  • A block away, Hanadi says she has no plans to leave

Editor's note: CNN's Ben Wedeman and crew are some of the few international reporters in Syria, whose government has been restricting access on foreign journalists and refusing many of them entry. Check out more from CNN inside Syria.

Aleppo, Syria (CNN) -- He wasn't a fighter or a revolutionary, he didn't live by the gun. But 45-year-old Hassan, a shopkeeper, died from an unseen sniper's bullet.

Neighbors and fighters had to hoist his body over walls between apartment buildings in the back streets of Aleppo's Mashhad neighborhood to avoid the snipers.

His wife was by his side when the bullet ripped through his head. The couple had come here to help relatives pinned down by the violence to escape to safer ground.

The line between life and death is perilously thin in Aleppo, Syria's largest city and the focus of fighting between government and rebel forces that have been seeking the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad.

More: Sniper fire greets CNN crew

Just one block away, Hanadi insisted she and her family of six had no plans to leave.

In this photo provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center, Syrian men help survivors out of a building in Aleppo after it was bombed, allegedly by a Syrian regime warplane on Saturday, February 8. The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011. Click through to see the most compelling images taken during the conflict, which is now a civil war: In this photo provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center, Syrian men help survivors out of a building in Aleppo after it was bombed, allegedly by a Syrian regime warplane on Saturday, February 8. The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011. Click through to see the most compelling images taken during the conflict, which is now a civil war:
Syrian civil war in photos
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Syrian civil war in photos Syrian civil war in photos
Syrians being tossed off buildings?
Watch reporter dodge danger in Syria
Watch Syrian city deal with civil war

Asked where the front line is, she brushed off the question, saying she's become accustomed to the shelling.

Her son, 1½-year-old Abdul Ghani, seemed confused; he squeezed a reporter's hand tightly.

A two-minute walk down the street, rubble showed that an apartment block had been hit in an airstrike.

What little was left of the building was in an area where residents were still living. Among the ruins lay a French book and "The Life of William Shakespeare."

Residents said two bodies remained buried inside.

More: Just who are the rebels?

Ra'id, a self-described unarmed activist, told CNN that regime forces don't care if they kill 100, 200, 1,000 or 2,000 civilians or if they destroy three or four buildings.

A rocket slammed into another building in the nearby Sikkari District, wounding two people and raining rubble into the street.

Throughout, government helicopters hovered overhead and jets dropped bombs on rebel-controlled neighborhoods.

Syria rebels say they shot down jet

The trappings of daily life in this city under siege have disappeared.

Even the simple act of crossing the street requires a strong heart and fast feet; the sniper's bullet is just a crack away.

Since the crisis erupted in March 2011, it has claimed roughly 17,000 lives, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said last month. Opposition activists have put the toll at more than 20,000.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Syrian crisis
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.
May 28, 2014 -- Updated 2119 GMT (0519 HKT)
What caught our experts' ears was as much about what he didn't address as much as what he did.
May 20, 2014 -- Updated 1019 GMT (1819 HKT)
The three-year war in Syria has claimed 162,402 lives, an opposition group said Monday, as the raging conflict shows no signs of abating.
May 31, 2014 -- Updated 0141 GMT (0941 HKT)
Official: The U.S. believes a jihadi featured in a suicide bombing video in Syria is Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha who grew up in Florida.
May 20, 2014 -- Updated 1437 GMT (2237 HKT)
For the first time, Britain has convicted someone of a terrorism offense related to the Syrian civil war.
ADVERTISEMENT