Syria's rebels: Ordinary men fight and die

Syria, rebels
An image taken from a video posted by Syrian opposition activists to the Youtube shows smoke rising from buildings in the city of Homs after an apparent rocket or mortar strike, Feb. 6, 2012.
CBS News

The situation in Syria is getting more dangerous by the hour. On Monday, the U.S. State Department closed its embassy in Damascus, saying it was vulnerable to attack. Ambassador Robert Ford and his staff are now on their way home.

President Bashar al-Assad's forces have been attacking protesters for eleven months. More than 5,000 Syrians are said to have been killed.

President Obama has said Assad must go. But over the weekend, Russia and China blocked a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for him to step down.

Since then, the army has stepped up attacks in Homs, shelling neighborhoods controlled by rebels. Human rights groups say several hundred people have been killed in the past three days.

Assad has barred most foreign journalists, but CBS News correspondent Clarissa Ward was able to sneak into a town in northern Syria, a town CBS News won't name. She met with rebels fighting to topple the regime, preparing for the fight they know is coming their way.

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The men call themselves the Syrian Liberation Army, though they have no military training. They claim to be in control of large parts of this Syrian city, which has been a hotbed of unrest since the uprising began nearly a year ago.

Abdul Rahman is one of the group's leaders. He took CBS News on a tour of the area he claims to have liberated from the Syrian army.

"This place all with me also, government cannot come here," Rahman said.

Along this road, armed rebel fighters man the checkpoints, not the Syrian army.

But just a few minutes later, the CBS News crew was stopped. Regime forces had left a gruesome message by the side of the road: the body of a local activist who was allegedly taken to prison and shot in the head, before being dumped by the highway.

At the local hospital there is a constant flow of injuries and fatalities - victims, people here say, of government snipers.

But still they gather every night to shout their defiance and demand an end to the regime, and every night, gun battles erupt all around the city

After the men get word that regime forces have surrounded some of the rebels, loudspeakers call out for them to come and fight.

The Syrian Liberation Army set out to answer the call. With light weapons and heavy hearts they stood guard on their street corners. They are brave defenders of their community, but no match for the Syrian army when it comes.

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While some neighborhoods may be under rebel control, the Syrian army has the city surrounded. The rebels have nothing by small arms, while the Army has tanks, artillery, and air assaults, something it's impossible for the rebels to match.

Everybody lives in a constant state of fear here. The concept of daily life is paralyzed. All the schools are closed. People aren't working anymore. People are living the idea of the revolution.

There's a town six miles away where some of the hardest fighting has been going on. If troops take that town, they're probably headed for this city.

  • Clarissa Ward
    Clarissa Ward

    Foreign Correspondent, CBS News