Families in Damascus struggle to survive

A victim lies injured from the August 21 alleged chemical weapons attack.
CBS News
A victim lies injured from the August 21 alleged chemical weapons attack. CBS News

(CBS News) DAMASCUS, Syria - Last November, Sara, an opposition activist, showed us around her neighborhood, a shattered Damascus suburb defended by rebel fighters from the Syrian Free Army.

Her family gave us shelter when Syrian military shells began to fall. Almost a year later — the shells are still falling.

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I could see them today from our hotel, but it's impossible to get to Moahdimiyeh now.

The army has it completely sealed off.

CBS News spoke to opposition activist Sara via Skype. CBS News

So instead — we got through to Sara on Skype.

Sara says life today is difficult. She's not able to get enough to eat, there is no sugar, cheese or milk.

On a meager diet, mostly of rice, Sara says she has lost 20 pounds since we last saw her.

On the morning of August 21st, rockets filled with poison gas landed less than a mile from her home. Sara ran to help.

"I had to help. The people were screaming. If I don't die from chemical weapons, I'm going to die from the starvation," said Sara.

So are the people who suffered through this relieved to hear Bashar al Assad has agreed to give up his chemical weapons? It makes no difference, Sara told us.

Sara's family was killed when a shell fell near their home. CBS News

"He's going to kill us with the shelling and the rockets," said Sara.

As if to prove it, Sara told us that two weeks ago, the family who had welcomed us so warmly in their home last fall were on the street when a shell fell nearby.

Sara's brother, his wife and their young son were killed.

  • Elizabeth Palmer
    Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."