Inside Syria's civil war
The following script is from "Aleppo" which aired on Oct. 14, 2012. Clarissa Ward is the correspondent. Harry Radliffe and Ben Plesser, producers.
Aleppo is one of the crown jewels of the ancient world, Syria's largest, richest and -- for the past three months -- most dangerous city. The battle that is raging there has reduced entire neighborhoods to smoking piles of rubble.
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Across Syria, hundreds of lightly armed, poorly trained rebel groups are fighting to overthrow one of the Middle East's last remaining dictators, Bashar al-Assad, who is using the might of the Syrian military to crush the uprising and hold on to power.
As many as 30,000 Syrians have been killed. More than two million have been forced out of their homes. In Aleppo, tired rebels are being reinforced by foreign fighters many of whom are radical Islamists.
Firsthand accounts from Aleppo are rare so we decided to go to the front lines ourselves. Some of what we saw -- and of what you will see in our story -- is disturbing.
Our trip began in Turkey. The porous border between Syria and Turkey has become increasingly volatile. After sneaking across, we drove for hours through rebel-held territory to reach the city and meet up with its top rebel commander.
His name is Colonel Abdul Jabbar al-Oqaidi and he's the commander of rebel forces, the so-called Free Syrian Army, in Aleppo. We met him in a neighborhood he claimed was under his control.
Clarissa Ward: And this is the liberated area of Aleppo?
Yes, he told us, 70 percent of Aleppo has been freed already. Colonel al-Oqaidi joined the rebels six months ago after defecting from the Syrian army. He walked us through one of the city's few functioning markets, anxious to show us that normal life is still possible here.
But the moment was short-lived. Shells were landing closer and closer.
[Dr. Maher Nana: We need to move.]
So we moved, driving through the narrow streets to the heart of this ancient city, large parts of which have been reduced to an apocalyptic wasteland.
We stopped because the colonel wanted to inspect his fighters on the front lines. But as soon as they spotted us, government snipers opened fire.
Night was falling so we moved to an area that we thought was more secure. It's bombardment like that, that has left Aleppo a virtual ghost town. Most civilians here have left. The only people who are really still left, still in the streets, are fighters and those who are too poor to leave.
[Clarissa Ward: Get in. Get in. Get in.]
Once again we had to jump into our cars and drive away. Later that night, we sat down with the colonel to discuss the day's events.
Clarissa Ward: I have to be honest with you. When we were walking through, I was quite terrified at points. There was a steady stream of artillery, there was sporadic gunfire. This did not feel like a liberated city, or even a liberated portion of the city.
Al-Oqaidi (translator): Yes. We control the land, but the skies above are in the government's hands. The regime has planes, artillery, and tanks.
All of which have been pounding the city relentlessly. When rebels brought the fight here in July, they hoped it would deliver a death blow to the regime. Instead they got bogged down in a bitter urban battle.
Al-Oqaidi: I get angry when I see civilians killed on the street and no one in the world is helping the Syrian people.
Colonel al-Oqaidi says he could have won this battle weeks ago if the West had provided him with heavier weapons, and especially anti-aircraft weapons.
Al-Oqaidi: The Syrian people will never forgive the international community for failing to stop Assad regime.
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