Living with Syria's rebels, dodging tanks

It's a massacre in Syria. Entire neighborhoods and apartment blocks are being blasted by artillery fire.

The United Nations on Monday described it as an indiscriminate attack on civilians, a crime against humanity by the Assad regime.

The attack took place in Homs, a city of 1.7 million, a little more than Philadelphia. It appears the dictator, Bashar al Assad, is moving to crush, once and for all, the rebellion that began nearly a year ago.

An organization of Arab states called for U.N. peacekeepers to step in, but on Monday Assad turned them down.

The Assad family has ruled Syria with an iron hand for 40 years. This is the most serious revolt they've ever faced.

Also on Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raised an alarm about where it's all heading.

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The Assad regime has banned independent reporting, but CBS News correspondent Clarissa Ward got inside Syria and linked up with the freedom movement rebels. She had been working in northern Syria around the city of Idlib.

Every time the people there venture out into the street, they are literally risking their lives.

Syrian army tanks patrolled the roads leading in and out and fired on poorly armed rebel fighters. Government troops were positioned on rooftops to pick off civilians as they passed by.

One man named Shabaan, who lives in Germany but came back to his native country to support the resistance, said: "I will not leave my country. I come to fight with people, to fight until the last minute. I will stay here."

Shabaan said he is willing to die in the fight. Everyone the CBS News crew met in Idlib was adamant they would not give up the fight until they win their freedom.

Deep in the heart of the old city of Idlib, in an alley, the CBS News crew were guests of a local family. The eldest brother, Abu Ibrahim, is a rebel commander in the area.

He and his younger brother, Azzu, gave the CBS News crew food, shelter and protection during their stay.

When the men went into battle, it was Abu Ibrahim who led the charge.

And when one of the fighters was shot, he was the one who struggled to carry the body of his fallen comrade off the battlefield under intense fire.

With no radio communications, Abu Ibrahim could not have known that on the other side of the road his brother Azzu had also been shot.

At the tiny local hospital, doctors did their best but were not able to save him.

The next day, crushed by grief, Abu Ibrahim carried the body of his brother through the streets of Idlib, and laid Azzu to rest as their father looked on.

Clarissa Ward said getting into and out of Syria to capture these stories was challenging. In describing the experience, Ward said:

"We relied heavily on a network of activists who went out of their way to take very good care of us. But it is a dangerous crossing and it is an illegal crossing.

"We went through with smugglers in the dead of night. The fields that we had to cross were completely saturated with mud because it had been raining all week, and some parts of the journey we were literally wading through canals and there are no trees at certain points during the crossing, so nowhere to take cover. Indeed, it is a very difficult and dangerous undertaking.

"(For the people who sheltered us), if they are caught or known to be taking care of international journalists, it is certain death for them. But they're so committed to their cause, they're so committed to getting their voice heard by the international community with the very potent hope that there may be some international support to grow out of this whole thing."

  • Clarissa Ward

    Foreign Correspondent, CBS News

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