Syrian "cyber soldiers" describe life under attack

(CBS News) DAMASCUS SUBURBS - It appears the Syrian dictatorship has turned to ballistic missiles in its war. The U.S. says Scud missiles have been launched against the rebels, and it's an ominous sign because it's a much larger weapon with a lot of explosive power.

The dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad has been fighting the rebellion for more than a year. At least 40,000 Syrians are dead, most of whom are civilians.

CBS News reached a neighborhood on the outskirts of the capital of Damascus to learn what life is like under the government's firepower.

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From a distance, the destructive power of a missile fired from a MIG warplane isn't obvious.

But up close, it's overwhelming.

Sara is a 21-year-old opposition activist working in the suburbs of Damascus. "From the MIG, we can't have any place to hide," she said.

Sara and a small group of cyber soldiers headquartered in a vacant apartment make sure videos of Syrian military attacks on their neighborhood are posted online.

Syrian opposition activists upload videos online.
Syrian opposition activists upload videos online.
CBS News

They work from the battlefield -- that is, their own backyard.

Heavy shelling by the Syrian army forced everyone to pick up their bedding and make a run for the basement. In the morning, Sara pointed out more damage.

The local hospital, for one, was destroyed by a direct hit.

"This is the shelling on the city," Sara said, pointing to the destruction. She said the planes even shell during the daytime.

They're at constant risk -- not only from the shelling, but also arrest if they try to leave the area. Syrian military surround the area.

Inside the neighborhood, however, the rebels are in control.

Damage from a Syrian missile in the Damascus suburbs.
Damage from a Syrian missile in the Damascus suburbs.
CBS News

"We want a better life for our children, for us. We want the freedom to say what we want," Sara said.

But after walking among the fresh graves of young men she knew -- and who were killed in the last 21 months of fighting -- Sara's stress and exhaustion starts to show:

Sara said her greatest fear is losing her parents.

"I'm afraid for my mom and dad because I am involved in the revolutionary works. They are good people and they deserve to live."

But staying alive is getting harder and harder as the decisive battle for Damascus closes in.

  • 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."