Villagers panicked, unsure where was safe

Fri, Aug 10, 2012, 01:00

EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT:THE SANDY colour of the Syrian air force jet was visible as it circled overhead. Then a screaming nose-dive and the orange flames of firing rockets on the farming village of Tel Rifaat.

This journalist saw the jet make at least a dozen rounds of the village of a few thousand people, 35km north of Aleppo city, firing missiles and mounted machine guns.

Villagers panicked – some tried to escape on motorbikes, while other crammed belongings and bread into three-wheeled vans. They were unsure of where was safe to go. Loud explosions rang out and black smoke billowed from an olive grove. A 12-wheeler truck was engulfed in flames.

Six children and a crying woman fled their tiny home. One woman held the Koran above her head, kissing it, and another banged her head in her hands.

Men came out of their homes to stare at the sky and throw their arms up in despair.

Abu Hassan, a rebel fighter from the Liwa al Fatah brigade, said the jets were targeting rebel bases in the area. “Four of our bases have been hit so far in and around Tal Rifaat,” he said.

Three rebels fighters fired an old anti-aircraft gun and a rifle fruitlessly at the speeding plane.

Forces loyal to president Bashar al-Assad face guerrilla fighters hiding in farm houses, not a traditional army, and war has been brought to small villages such as Tal Rifaat across the country.

Although the pilots seemed to know where the rebel bases were, their fire often appeared indiscriminate.

Cows ran and jumped as explosions hit fields, while panicked families took cover under olive trees. They looked almost as if they were out for a picnic as they hid under the canopy of branches. – (Reuters)