Helplessness in Syria as potential U.S. strike looms

(CBS News) DAMASCUS, Syria - The United Nations weapons inspectors have finished their work in Syria.

The last of the group was supposed to have left at 7 Saturday morning, but quite suddenly and with no public explanation their departure was moved forward to 4 a.m.

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Amal Akawi
Amal Akawi CBS News

Earlier Friday, activists said that the inspectors were supposed to have visited one of the areas where the chemical attack had occured, but things suddenly got much too dangerous.

Syrian government shells rained down on the rebel-held neighborhood called Maadimiyeh on the southwestern edge of the city.

Maadimiyeh was also hit last Wednesday in the alleged chemical attack. On Friday it was being pounded by conventional weapons.

And yet, not 5 miles away, in Tishreen Park in the government-controlled heart of Damascus, the rituals of life continued on a late summer afternoon.

After dark, as so many Syrian children have told CBS News over the past year, they suffer terrible nightmares brought on by the violence all around them.

Inas al-Chaer
Inas al-Chaer CBS News

Today, in the sunshine, they're not thinking about the war. Their parents are though, worried as much about another chemical attack as about an American strike.

Amal Akawi said the fear is keeping her awake.

"I hear many countries will attack us," she said. "It's terrifying."

Inas al-Chaer, who was too nervous to show her face on camera, told CBS News one of the worst things now is feeling helpless.

The young girl said she would tell the American people to "end this with the least amount of damage and death possible."

The Syrian government has provided some reaction, but at a time when a scarred and traumatized people are looking to their leaders for some direction and reassurance, not one Syrian politician appeared on television. Instead, the foreign minister sent a statement saying that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had failed to offer any proof the Syrian government had carried out a chemical attack and warned that this was a prelude to aggression that would result in hundreds of innocent victims.

  • 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."