Syria's opposition: "We will carry on"

Daraa, Syria
A child holds a sign during a protest in Daraa, Syria, an opposition stronghold.
CBS News

For 10 months, people have been fighting and dying in a war that for the most part has been hidden. Since last March, an estimated 5,000 people have died in Syria.

But the dictator, Bashar al-Assad dictatorship doesn't want the world to see his military attack protesters.

It was only when observers from the Arab League arrived that some foreign journalists were allowed in, including CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer.

She was able to slip away from Syrian authorities and traveled south to Daraa, a hotbed for the regime's opponents.

After 10 months of being killed, spied on, and arrested by the Syrian regime, the protestors of Daraa - who pioneered the popular uprisings back in March - are as angry and fearless as ever.

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They're led by local activists like one man, whose name we agreed not to reveal.

"We will carry on," he says, "until the regime collapse."

Until just four days ago, he was in prison in Damascus, then, on Sunday, in a blaze of publicity, he was among 130 protestors released under a sudden presidential amnesty.

But as he walked free into the winter night, he said that months of custody and beatings hadn't deterred him.

To catch up with him on his home turf CBS News drove south from Damascus.

At the outskirts of Daraa, the CBS News team was intercepted by a state security detail, who explained where the dangerous hot spots were in town. They escorted the group back out again, "for our own safety."

The next time - moving carefully to avoid Syrian intelligence - we were picked up by the protestor's scouts and led through the backstreets.

We're deep inside a suburb what the opposition says is a safe haven guarded by members of the Syrian Free Army, and they've just assembled for a demonstration spontaneously. They say they have them two or three times a day.

About 60 soldiers who've defected from the Syrian army are now hiding in this neighborhood. It was here that CBS News met Aurian, who bared his arm to show the burns he suffered after a shell hit his kitchen stove.

Nearby, an 8 year old boy was recovering in bed from what his parents told us was a sniper's bullet.

Back in the safe house, Daraa's women come forward, as committed to the anti-regime resistance as their men.

The protests will continue, says the man CBS News met coming out of prison, but to win he believes Syria's uprising needs outside help.

The protesters know they're facing internal oppositon as well. A new poll suggests that as many as 50 percent of the population remains in favor of the regime. Their reasoning is that any government -disliked though this one may be - is better than civil war.

There is a team of human rights observers in Syria right now from the Arab League that is monitoring the situation. They demanded free press access, and while the government may have objected, the CBS News team took advantage of the small window of opportunity to get out and report from the front lines.

  • 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."