Civilians bear the brunt of Syrian assault

The slaughter continues in Syria. The dictator there, Bashar al-Assad seems to have set out to destroy all opposition.

His forces have surrounded Homs, a city the size of Philadelphia and the center of the 11-month rebellion. For a sixth day, the army fired into the city. Rockets and mortars hit houses and mosques. Human rights groups say more than 60 people were killed just today. Hospitals are packed with wounded, including children.

Syria has banned independent reporting, but CBS News correspondent Clarissa Ward got in to tell the story of rebels in one town, fighting to overthrow the 40-year-old dictatorship.

In the center of town, a group of men, united in grief and defiance, marched together carrying their dead on their shoulders.

"God is great," they cried. "Give us revenge on Bashar."

They honored not only the fallen, but also the bravest among them who fought in a gun battle yesterday. When rebel fighters tried to over-run a Syrian Army checkpoint, four men were killed and several others were injured.

More reports from Clarissa Ward inside Syria:
Bloodletting underway in Syria, as rebels falter
For rebel-held Syrian towns, constant funerals
Syria's rebels: Ordinary men fight and die

The funeral procession poured into the main square. The entire community gathered to lay to rest two of the men who were killed in Wednesday's fighting. They chanted over and over again: "Heaven open your doors to accept this martyr."

Another, smaller body was carried in. Locals say the 10-year-old boy was killed in the crossfire.

"Heaven loves the martyrs!" the crowd shouted.

The procession moved towards the burial ground, defiantly marching past a Syrian army camp. Armed rebel fighters walked alongside to offer protection, and snipers kept guard in high places all around.

But as the last mourners were leaving, Syrian army tanks rolled in, shots rang out, the streets emptied, and the fighters scrambled to get to safer ground.

Life here now is a cycle of funerals and gun battles. Normal routines have been on hold for months. Schools are closed, garbage collection is done by overstretched volunteer and the power supply is spotty.

There has been no internet or cell phone service for three days in some parts. People here worry that cutting them off from the world is the first step in an all-out government assault on the city

Friday is the day when most of the protests and most of the violence have taken place during this uprising. Regime forces have set up a number of checkpoints to enforce security, which means that movement in and out of the city is very difficult, not just for the rebel fighters but for ordinary civilians.

It is those civilians who are bearing the brunt of this conflict. The boy mentioned earlier who died was just out playing when he was killed, locals say. The sad thing is, that is a story often told.

People are constantly asking journalists: Why is the international community helping? Why did Libya get a no-fly zone, but not us?

  • Clarissa Ward

    Foreign Correspondent, CBS News

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