Aleppo at war: Everyday life in the death zone

Kurt Pelda reports: In Aleppo, every footstep is a crunch. The streets are strewn with rubble and broken glass from destroyed buildings and shattered windows. It’s a sound that distinguishes a walk around this war-torn Syrian town from any other city in the world.

Abu Jamal is a young fighter from Brigade North Storm, a unit of the Syrian resistance. His comrades just call him “the sniper” because he spends his days creeping over rubble and broken glass from one building to the next in search of a firing position.

Abu Jamal is stationed in Bustan al-Basha, a district devastated by bombs and shells. Hardly any civilians live here anymore. A few fighters invite him to take tea with them in front of an office building that used to house a bank. I too sit on a stool on the sidewalk. Abu Jamal warns me. “That’s not a good place to sit,” he says, pointing to a big window on the first floor. “The shockwave of explosions can burst the window pane. The falling bits of glass could kill you.” Sure enough, when we pass the same spot the next day, the window is broken, its glass strewn across the sidewalk and the street.

There are rusting bits of metal everywhere. The shrapnel comes from exploding artillery shells and aerial bombs whose sole purpose is to kill. The explosions send them hurtling through the air. They tear people to pieces and slice gaping holes in skulls. The shrapnel doesn’t distinguish between fighters and civilians, men and women, old people and children. After impact with the ground, the pieces, often twisted into bizarre shapes, are red hot. You can burn your fingers on them — Aleppo’s children have learned that lesson.

If you want to survive in this city gone mad you watch out for flying metal and rubble. If an aerial bomb explodes in the area, people stay under shelter for at least 10 seconds afterwards — that’s how long it takes for the debris hurled into the air from the crater to come raining down, often over a distance of hundreds of meters, with deadly force. [Continue reading…]

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