‘In Homs we are all wading in blood’

Jonathan Littell reports: The corpse, already waxy, wrapped in its shroud, a crown of plastic flowers around its head, lies in a corner of the mosque. Kneeling next to the coffin, a boy in tears, his brother, strokes his face with infinite tenderness. The dead boy was 13. The night before, around 11 o’clock, he was breaking wood in front of his doorstep. His father, eyes swollen, but upright and dignified among his friends and relatives, tells me what happened: “He probably shone his mobile phone to see what he was doing. And the sniper killed him.”

It was neither an accident nor chance. Their street is constantly under fire from this sniper, who, based in the neighbourhood school, practises on cats when he has no other targets. “We don’t even dare take out the rubbish any more,” a neighbour adds. Another man shows me, on his mobile phone, the corpse of his brother, killed while he was protecting his 11-year-old son, before explaining to me that he had to break down the walls between his house and his neighbours’ to get out without exposing himself to gunfire.

After the burial, I pile into a car with three activists to continue on to a neighbourhood further east, Karam al-Zeytoun. At each avenue, the shawari al-maout or “death streets” as people call them, the driver speeds up, foot to the floorboard, to avoid the gunshots. As if on cue, shots ring out ahead of us. We swerve abruptly into a small street. We find ourselves at a makeshift emergency care centre. The staff are holding down a young man whose lower skull has been pierced by a bullet. He twists, vomits a flow of blood, rears up, vomits again; the man treating him, who isn’t even a doctor, can do nothing; they bandage up his head and bundle him into a taxi, to rush him to a clinic. A witness explains what happened: the victim, 27 years old according to his ID card, was shot in front of the nearby Said ibn Amer mosque as he was carrying medicine to his parents; one hour earlier, another man was killed coming out of the mosque, by a bullet through the neck.

The witness doesn’t even have time to finish his story. New wounded are brought in, an older man hit in the upper chest and a veiled woman, rolling terrified eyes, her jaw split open by a bullet. It’s the same sniper as for the young man and he seems to always aim for the neck; this woman was lucky. The man gasps for breath; he is finally evacuated in a delivery van, with a friend lying next to him to hold up the IV-drip. We are all wading in the blood; one of the activists clutches his head, already at the end of his tether. But this is only the beginning. As we are questioning witnesses at the medical assistant’s home, we hear more honking and run back to the centre. It’s chaos. The two wounded men they had tried to send to a hospital have been brought back, dead; the staff are bustling around three more wounded, hit by a shell blast in front of another first aid point; on the table, a fourth man dies right in front of me, after a brief shudder, without my even realising it. I try to question one of the wounded but then they bring in a baby, hit in the groin.

A little later, after a far-too-long drive down the sniper avenue, I come across a naked man, covered in blood, his hands tied, his head crushed flat, being paraded in triumph on a Free Syria Army (FSA) pickup truck. It is the body of a shabiha, a regime militia man, who was lynched 20 minutes ago. [Continue reading…]

See also Jonathan Littell’s earlier report, “Homs, city of torture.” Both reports originally appeared in Le Monde and have been translated from French by Charlotte Mandell.

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  1. Well, I think the PNAC/neocon regime-changers will win this one. UNSC approval or not, someone’s army will have to go in there and dethrone the bastard. Hillary wants Turkey to do it. Turkey is apparently prepared to tell Hillary to do it herself. (http://watchingamerica.com/News/142624/to-the-us-from-davutoglu-dont-let-homs-become-another-sarajevo/)

    Moreover, Jonathan Littell is not just some French reporter. He’s THE Jonathan Littell, Jewish-American author of the controversial and award-winning novel *The Kindly Ones*, written in French and translated by Charlotte Mandell.