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Doctor in Homs: Everyone is waiting to die

By Moni Basu and Salma Abdelaziz, CNN
updated 2:58 PM EST, Thu February 9, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: An activist says the Syrian army is approaching fast
  • The Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs has been under attack for five days
  • Ali lacks proper medial equipment to treat the wounded
  • People wait in their homes, wondering if any moment will be their last

(CNN) -- The bodies begin coming in before the sun rises to the sky. Some arrive with heads decapitated or their torsos split open like animals after slaughter. Or their limbs are mangled under the crush of rubble.

Ali trained to be a doctor, to save lives. What can he do for the dead? He looks instead to help the 100 or so people who trickle into his makeshift clinic in the flashpoint Baba Amr area of the city of Homs. But the most he can do is wrap their wounds.

"All I have is gauze, bandages, old stitches and few antiseptic wipes," Ali tells CNN Thursday morning.

He has no surgical equipment, nothing that he can use to fix broken people.

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The Syrian Arab Red Crescent tried to reach Baba Amr the other day and bring in badly needed medical aid, but Ali says their vehicle was attacked. They were forced to turn around, leaving behind a neighborhood of people upon whom the Syrian regime's wrath has been focused in recent days.

More than 100 people have already been killed in Homs on Thursday, according to the Local Coordination Committees, a network of Syrian opposition activists. Many of the dead are in Baba Amr.

Syria's third largest city, once known for leafy parks and al fresco coffee shops, turned into a raging battleground over the many months of the uprising. For the past five days, Homs has suffered an onslaught by Bashar al-Assad's forces.

It is constant. Relentless.

The whizzing of rockets, the thunder of mortars and tanks shatter the relative calm that prevails at night until dawn in Baba Amr, the heart of revolt in Homs. Omar sees two planes cut through dense winter sky. They drop five rockets, he counts.

Omar, a citizen journalist and activist, believes the regime is targeting the area because he set up a satellite connection to bypass the communication blackout. He wants the world to know what is happening in Homs.

He says Baba Amr is free. Liberated. People here will never give up or go back.

His defiance can be heard clearly through the sounds of war. As he speaks, his house begins to shake.

Omar is petrified.

"I am OK. I am OK," he says. "At least for now."

Danny, an activist, says time is running out for the people of Baba Amr. The water tanks were hit earlier. What will people drink? They still have some bread, though it's hard and dry. And scraps of cold cuts. Maybe enough for two days, he says.

It doesn't matter, he says. The Syrian army is approaching -- fast.

"Tomorrow, it will be over," he predicts, pleading for help.

"We want the United Nations to interfere," he says, desperation hugging each word. "We want them to bombard the regime. We're going to get killed. No one is doing anything about this."

CNN is not fully naming any of the people in this report for their protection.

At the clinic, Ali is able to speak by telephone for 10 minutes. Within that time, CNN is able to hear seven thundering explosions.

He hears that Syrian jets are attacking their own people. But he is too afraid to stick his head out the window to see. He doesn't want it blown off.

By Ali's assessment, the bombardment has damaged 60 percent of the homes in besieged Baba Amr. But people do not have an escape route.

"There is now way to flee Baba Amr because all surrounding suburbs are also under attack and anything that moves is shot at," Ali says. "We are hoping and praying the international community will set up a humanitarian corridor to allow civilians and injured to flee the fighting."

Is this what civil war is like? Will it ever stop?

It is a war in which people cannot even bury their dead, Ali says. They are wrapped in stark sheets and stack up in places like his clinic. In the darkness of night, they are buried in people's gardens, to keep infection at bay.

The lucky survivors simply wait in their homes with the kind of uncertainty and fear that can drive a man mad. At any moment, a rocket could crash through the walls. Any moment could be their last.

The world debates the merits of intervention in Syria. In Homs, Ali says, everyone is waiting for their turn to die.

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