Rastan, a city about 20 KMs to the north of Homs and has a population of about 50,000, has been amongst the most steadfast cities in the province. Its civilians rebuffed becoming refugees and many of them stayed in their houses although the city is being bombarded extensively since the first few months of the revolution. But, since the beginning of the military campaign and siege imposed on Homs province 65 days ago up till now, the city is being hammered day and night by rockets, helicopter bombs, gunfire, mortar bombs, and tank shells. The Free Syrian Army brigades based in the city tirelessly fight back the on-ground invasions the regime’s forces attempt to launch repeatedly using tanks, armoured tanks, and anti-aircraft.
Speaking of the Free Syrian Army, I have been reading many comments, arguing that the the high death toll in Rastan and other areas in Homs and across Syria is because the “Free Syrian Army is hiding in civilian areas”. This approach actually is being used by the regime, but the regime uses the term “armed militias” rather than “Free Syrian Army”. The Free Syrian Army is from the people and for the people. Even if the argument that “when the Free Syrian Army is based in a city/town the bombardment becomes fiercer” is presumably true, the fault still completely falls on the regime, who has turned civilian deaths into “collateral damage”. When Fallujah was attacked and indiscriminately bombarded by the US forces in 2003-2004 in order to exterminate the armed resistance, the same term (collateral damage) was used to describe the countless civilian casualties. In the Israeli war launched on Gaza in 2009, the Israeli forces excused their extensive F-16 air-strikes by claiming that “the armed forces are hiding in the X or Y residential area”; yet again, Palestinian martyrs, many of whom were innocent children and women, where called “collateral damage”. Although the comparison between Iraq, Palestine, and Syria is not much legitimate, the rhetorical question remains: would Iraqis, Palestinians, or Syrians ask their armed resistance to leave their cities? Definitely not.
As the indiscriminate bombardment continues to target the city of Rastan, casualties are falling daily and the humanitarian and medical conditions do not guarantee the survival of most of the wounded civilians, many of whom are children. The regime’s forces now began using a new mean to further destroy the city and kill more civilians. +200 KG TNT barrels are being dropped by helicopters over residential areas, completely destroying up to 4 buildings located on the same line. As civilians are in their houses, apparently, when they are targeted by these barrels, they get trapped under the rubble of their own bombarded houses. Buildings made up of several stories are collapsing in the split of a second. When the bombardment is on, most of the civilians come down to the lower floors; thus, when they get targeted by such bombs, rescuing them becomes an excruciating difficulty. To make matters worse, the city has no bulldozers to remove the rubble of high buildings; therefore, civilians begin to carefully remove the rocks and bricks by their own hands. In this exhausting procedure, each second counts as those innocent children and women buried underneath become closer to death with every mere breathe they take.
Moments after a TNT barrel was dropped on an area in Rastan city:
Shelling targeting residential areas:
Civilians and a Red Crescent volunteer removing the bricks and rocks by their own hands, looking for casualties:
Severe wounds amongst children and civilians, being resuscitated but with no use. No medical supplies available to treat such extremely critical injuries:
The aforementioned scenario happens every day in Rastan city. Civilians keep paying the price of their courage and steadfastness but they indeed refuse to surrender. The dreadful photos and footage of the children, shredded into pieces under their own houses, bang my mind all day. These children do not even make it to news anymore as most have normalized with the fact that children of Homs are no more; our children and women are being treated as though they were born to be killed in such an appalling way.
Martyr Menwar Al Ashtar, found under the rubble of his own house after being killed by the bombardment:
Civilians removing bricks and rocks, desperately trying to reach a child trapped under a wall of his own house. When they got him out, totally burnt and shredded, the man holding him sensed his heart beating. They all rushed him to the makeshift hospital with little hopes that he would survive:
What is happening across Syria is not because of the Free Syrian Army nor because the civilians chose to continue with the revolution with both the peaceful and the armed factions of it. What is happening in Syria simply are atrocities and war-crimes being committed by the regime’s security, army, and Shabiha (thugs) forces under the very same fancy slogan most occupiers and terrorists use:”we are fighting armed militias and terrorism.”
These children lost everything they could ever dream of. Their memories, smiles, tears, and toys were all gone the moment that bomb targeted their house… The moment that soul left their bodies. Everything these children ever dreamed of, everything these children ever wished to achieve, everything these small hearts beat for, are gone by the split of a second, probably whilst you were drinking your coffee or watching TV. What is happening is unforgivable. I pray these children never forgive all those still skeptical of their pain and misery. I pray they never forgive all those silent, watching them being slaughtered everyday, without moving a finger. Rastan and its children are immortal. Heaven is packed by our immortal angels from Rastan.