Tuesday 28 August 2012
The dead include 135 unarmed civilians, 12 unidentified bodies, 13 rebel fighters, 1 defected soldier, and no less than 32 members of the Syrian regular forces.
135 Unarmed Civilians:
- In Reef Dimashq 46 civilians were killed. 7 were killed by bombardment on the town of Kafarbatna. 2 were shot by sniper fire in
**10 unidentified civilians were killed in Reef Dimashq, the SOHR is working on obtaining their information. 4 were killed by the bombardment on Irbeen; 6 were killed by regime fire in Dareyya**
- In Idlib Province 25 civilians were killed. 21 civilians (19 men and 2 women) were killed by bombardment on the Kafranbel town. 3 were killed by bombardment on Ariha, Ma’arat Masreen and Nahliya. A child was martyred by wounds he received earlier from bombardment on the city of Ma’aret al-Nu’man in Reef Idlib.
- In Damascus Province 21 civilians were killed. 13 civilians from the Jobar neighbourhood were killed: 10 civilians were killed in the neighbourhood by gunfire and bombardment; 3 from Jobar were killed by the regime bombardment on the town of Ein Terma, Reef Dimashq. A civilian from the al-Mazza neighbourhood was shot by sniper fire in the Ein Tarma town in Reef Dimashq. 3 civilains were summarily executed in the Hajar al-Aswad and al-Qadam neighbourhoods. The bodies of 4 men were found in the al-Qadam neighbourhood in Damascus.
**2 unidentified bodies were found in the Barzeh neighbourhood of Damascus**
- In Hama Province 16 civilians were killed. 7 men were killed by regime forces’ gunfire in the villages of al-Shari’a and al-Tweini in Reef Hama. 5 civilains, including 3 children, were killed by the bombardment on the village of Shahrazad. 1 civilian from the village of Souha was shhot by a military checkpoint. 1 civilian was killed by the bombardment on the Kreim village in Sahl al-Ghab. A father and his son were killed by pro-regime gunmen in Qal’at al-Madiq, Reef Hama.
-In Homs Province 7 civilians were killed. 4 civilians, including a child and woman, were killed by bombardment on the al-Khadliya neighbourhood. 2 were killed by bombardment on the neighbourhoods of Homs al-Qadima. 1 was killed by pro-regime gunmen in the city of Homs.
- In Aleppo Province 8 civilians were killed. A child died from wounds he received earlier by sniper fire. 4 civilians, including a woman and child, were killed by bombardment on the al-Maysar neighbourhood in the city of Aleppo. 1 was shot by pro-regime gunmen in the Maysaloon neighbourhood. 1 died from wounds he received earlier by sniper fire in the Seif al-Dawla neighbourhood.
- In Deir Izzor Province 7 civilians were killed. 4 were killed in the city of Deir Izzor, 1 was identified by his relatives after his corpse was found several days ago, 2 others were shot by sniper fire, 1 died from wounds he received earlier by sniper fire in the al-I’mal neighbourhood. A civilian died from wounds he received earlier by bombardment on the al-Bukamal city. A civilian from the town of al-A’shara was found dead near the al-Furat river. A child was killed from wounds received during the bombardment of the Bal’oom neighbourhood of al-Mayadeen city.
- In Dera’a Province 4 civilians were killed. A woman was killed by bombardment on the Mahja town. 1 was shot by regime forces’ sniper fire in the Mahja town. 1 was killed by bombardment on the Tsil town in Reef Dera’a. 1 civilian from the town of al-Sanamein was tortured to death.
- In Latakia Province a civilian was killed by bombardment on the al-Hafa town in Reef Latakia.
13 Rebel Fighters:
- In Idlib Province 5 rebel fighter were killed during clashes with regime forces in the city of Ariha.
- In Damascus Province 7 rebel fighters were shot by regime forces in the Jobar neighbourhood.
- In Aleppo Province a rebel fighter was killed during clashes with regime forces in the al-Itha’a neighbourhood.
A defected soldier died from wounds he received earlier in Reef Dera’a.
At least 32 regime forces were killed during the explosion of machinery and clashes in the provinces of Aleppo, Idlib, Homs, Hama, Reef Dimashq, Damascus and Dera’a.
Turkey imposes further restrictions on Syrian refugees: The Turkish authorities have issued an arbitrary law that prohibits Syrian refugees from living in any of the cities on the border with Syria. This law warrants the deportation of all Syrians that are caught inside the cities either to the camps or outside Turkish territories.
[local time] 21:30 The disfigured bodies of women and children killed by building crashing down from shelling bear witness to the intensity of the fighting in residential districts of Syria’s second city, according to an AFP feature.
21:12 Some 20 non-violent Syrian opposition parties and movements said in a meeting in Damascus on Tuesday that they seek to establish a democratic regime without resorting to arms.
Some 20 non-violent Syrian opposition parties and movements said in a meeting in Damascus on Tuesday that they seek to establish a democratic regime without resorting to arms.
“We are faced with two sides that use violence, but weapons only lead to attrition,” said Raja Nassar, who coordinated the gathering.
Syria’s 17-month uprising started off as a peaceful revolt, but was faced with such brutal repression that it turned into a bloody armed insurgency against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Opposed both to the regime and to the rebel Free Syrian Army, the movements said they were organizing a conference in September to call for “democratic change that preserves the unity of the nation and social peace.”
“The regime has unleashed almost all its force on the ground, and has been unable to defeat the armed opposition, which for its part has yet to win a single victory,” veteran dissident Nasser told journalists.
The parties and movements taking part in the gathering are opposed to both the main opposition coalition – the Syrian National Council – and the FSA, which have consistently called for international intervention against the regime.
More than 25,000 people have been killed since the outbreak of the revolt in March last year, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
21:05 Tuesday’s death toll in Syria reached 118 people, killed mostly in Edleb, Hama and the Damascus district, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
18:50 The conflict in Syria and its daily stream of violence will be the dominant theme of the 24th Festival of Photojournalism that opens in France on Saturday.
18:44 Clashes have erupted between Syrian regime forces and Free Syrian Army rebels in the Tadamoun neighborhood of Damascus, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
18:20 The head of Russia’s army said Tuesday that Moscow had no intention to end its military presence in Syria despite the escalating violence and threat of President Bashar al-Assad’s fall.
18:15 Four people were killed and dozens injured in the shelling of Aleppo’s neighborhood of Al-Mayser, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
18:14 Syrian regime forces clashed with Free Syrian Army rebels in the town of Al-Haffa in Latakia, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
17:58 Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt on Tuesday warned against the possibility of sectarian tensions in Syria after the inevitable departure of President Bashar al-Assad.
17:15 Seven Syrians who tried to sail to Cyprus to escape the conflict in their homeland drowned after their boat sank last week, the UN refugee agency said on Tuesday.
16:48 Syrian regime fighter jets bombed several neighborhoods in Homs, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
16:45 The Free Syrian Army rebels clashed with regime forces in the neighborhood of Tishrine near Barzeh in Damascus, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
15:39 Syrian opposition activists gathered in Berlin said Tuesday that it was too soon to form a transition post-Assad government after France said it would recognize a new provisional administration.
15:13 Tuesday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 78 people, Al-Arabiya television quoted activists as saying.
15:10 A car exploded during a funeral in a southeastern suburb of Damascus on Tuesday killing several people, Syrian state television reported without giving further details.
14:36 Syrian Vice President Faruq al-Shara said it would be a “mistake” to keep Iran out of international efforts to end the Syrian crisis.
13:40 Rebel commanders say the weapons they do have – Kalashnikovs, some RPGs, a handful of anti-aircraft guns – are old and expensive while the weapons they need to take on the might of an army are impossible to come by.
13:22 The number of Syrians fleeing to the Al-Zaatri refugee camp in Jordan has doubled in recent days, with more than 10,000 taking shelter there.
13:09 The swelling numbers of refugees on Turkish soil are putting an enormous strain on Ankara which is pushing for safe zones inside Syria to shelter them as it confronts security-related problems at home.
13:06 Fifteen people were killed on Tuesday in the Syrian regime forces’ shelling of Kfar Nabal in Edleb, Al-Jazeera television reported.
12:50 A military vehicle blew up in Jermana near Damascus on Tuesday, leaving passengers dead, Al-Arabiya television reported.
12:42 The Syrian regime army summarily executed seven people in the town of Al-Tueni in the Hama district Tuesday, Al-Jazeera television quoted activists as saying.
12:13 The Syrian regime army on Tuesday executed five soldiers for attempting to defect, Al-Jazeera television quoted activists as saying.
12:11 Syrian regime forces on Tuesday killed 60 people, most of them in Edleb and the Hama district, Al-Jazeera television reported.
11:45 Sixteen people were killed and others wounded on Tuesday in the shelling of the Sahel al-Ghab in the Hama district, Al-Jazeera television reported.
11:21 Switzerland has proposed that former UN war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte join the UN commission investigating rights abuses in conflict-torn Syria.
10:40 Syria’s army pounded the eastern belt of Damascus before dawn on Tuesday after opening a new front east of the capital.
8:22 MORNING LEADER: UN chief Ban Ki-moon demanded an independent inquiry Monday into the killings of hundreds of civilians in the Syrian town of Daraya as world outrage mounted over the “massacre” by pro-government forces. State media said the operation had “purified terrorist remnants” in Daraya.
8:05 Syria’s foreign minister accused the United States of being the “major player” encouraging anti-government rebels, but vowed the regime would not deploy chemical weapons.
Independent:Exclusive: ‘We believe that the USA is the major player against Syria The battle for Damascus could be heard inside the Foreign Minister’s office yesterday, a vibration of mortars.
Opposition groups in Syria on Tuesday said up to 400 bodies had been found in the town of Daraya, south-west of the capital Damascus, in what appears to be the worst single massacre by government forces in the country’s 17-month-old civil war.
At least 200 bodies were found among the Sunni community on Saturday, after Syrian troops stormed the town and carried out house-to-house searches. On Tuesday following the army’s withdrawal residents reported the death toll was higher. They said that government troops and pro-government shabiha militia raided some streets ‘two or three times’, in some cases demanding hospitality and then killing their hosts when they left.
“The total number in Daraya so far is 400 bodies. The number of bodies buried unidentified is more than 100,” one resident, Abu Kinan, told the Guardian on Tuesday via Skype. He added: “One of the massacre survivors told me that when the Syrian army stormed their alley, they put more than 50 people up against the wall. As they began spraying them with bullets, he threw himself to the floor. He was covered with blood though he was not shot. He pretended that he was dead. Four of his family were killed.”
The claim came after little sign of diplomatic progress on Syria. On Monday, France’s president François Hollande urged Syria’s divided opposition to form a provisional government, saying Paris was ready to recognise it. On Tuesday, however, US officials dismissed the move as premature.
Kinan said the army remained in Daraya for two-and-a-half days. In this time government troops combed the district – followed by Shabiha “death squads”. The siege of Daraya had now eased, he added, with some roads open again, and the wounded able to travel to hospitals. “We are still finding bodies,” he said. Another resident, Abu Mua’tasim, added: “The Syrian army stayed in some of the houses. One belonged to my friend. People were forced to serve them food and tea. Just before they were leaving they killed the people in the house …I know the family.”
President Bashar al-Assad‘s regime has portrayed the killing in Daraya as a counter-terrorism operation, saying it cleansed the area of “terrorists”.
Human rights groups and locals say many of the dead were civilians. The operation follows a pattern seen previously, with the Syrian army first encircling an area known to be hostile to the regime, shelling it for a period of days, and then sending in troops house to house.
Activists in the nearby al-Qadam district said they feared they would be next.
On Tuesday they discovered the bodies of five local men dumped near the mosque. The al-Qadam victims had been stabbed and shot at point-blank range. Two of the bodies had smashed heads, graphic video footage showed. “There are many [government] checkpoints at the outskirts of al-Qadam district. Most of the people disappeared at these checkpoints,’ one resident, Abu Hamza, told the Guardian via Skype.
Hamza, said that 150 people had been wounded from shelling by tanks on the highway over the past three weeks. He said the Syrian army and shabiha militias had taken up positions in the police and train stations. said the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) was encamped in orchards outside town, he said.
Hamza added: “This isn’t the first time we have found bodies. During August we found more than 25 – sometimes four, sometimes six [at a time]. The discovery of these slaughtered bodies has made people in al-Qadam district flee. The population in more than 300,000 but over the past two weeks 90 per cent of the people have fled.”
He went on: “People are scared of repeated massacres. The big problem we have here is that Alawite districts surround al-Qadam district … The five bodies we found today are of men aged between 25 and 45. People were able to identify two of them, a body beloning to Anass Ahmed and another, of Ziyad Abdulwah al-Masseri.”
In Damascus, at least 12 people died and dozens were wounded when a car bomb exploded at the funeral of two supporters of President Bashar al-Assad. The explosion took place in a Druze cemetry at the Jaramana district of south-east Damascus. Syrian state TV blamed the attack on the rebels and said 48 people had been injured in a “terrorist car bombing”.
Elsewhere in the city, government forces shelled several districts, including the Ghouta suburbs in the east, according to video footage. Clashes have been going on in Damascus for over a month with Assad’s regime stepping up its efforts to wipe out resistance. Syrian military helicopters also dumped hundreds of leaflets over the capital and its suburbs, urging rebels to hand in their weapons, the Associated Press reported.
The leaflets, signed by the armed forces and the army’s general command, read: “The Syrian army is determined to cleanse every inch in Syria and you have only two choices: Abandon your weapons … or face inevitable death.
“No one will help you. They have implicated you in taking up arms against your compatriots,” they read. “They drown in their pleasures while you face death. Why? And for whom?”
The deteriorating situation inside Syria has prompted a fresh exodus of refugees. On Tuesday the UN refugee agency said the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey could reach 200,000, with others fleeing to neighbouring Jordan.
“The increase in the number of Syrians arriving in Turkey has been dramatic. Compared to previous weeks in which we saw about 400-500 people arriving a day, we’ve been seeing peaks of up to 5,000 people in one day over the past two weeks,” Melissa Fleming, chief spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told a news briefing.
Syria crisis: Fighting rages around Damascus: Follow the latest developments as Assad regime seeks to clear rebels from the capital. Summary of the latest developments
• Syrian military helicopters have dropped leaflets over Damascus and its suburbs urging rebels to hand over their weapons or face ‘inevitable death’, AP reports.
• A resident of Darayya – the scene of a massacre at the weekend – has told the Guardian that troops demanded hospitality in people’s homes, and then killed their hosts.
• Seven people are reported to have been killed in Jaramana district of Damascus when a car bomb exploded at a funeral for two government supporters.
• Air strikes have hit Kanfranbel, in Idlib province, reportedly killing at least 15 people.
• The pace of Syrian refugees arriving in Za’atri camp, in northern Jordan, has doubled, with 10,200 arriving in the past week, heralding what could be a bigger mass movement, the UN refugee agency has warned.
• China is hosting Egypt’s newly elected president, despite its uneasiness with the Arab Spring revolution that helped bring him to power.
Twelve people are killed by a car bomb at a funeral in the Jaramana suburb of the Syrian capital Damascus, state TV says.
Injuries were also reported, with state media saying 48 people were wounded.
The funeral was for two supporters of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, according to a UK-based opposition group.
Activists estimate over 20,000 people have died since March 2011, with over a million thought to be displaced.
The two who were being buried had reportedly been killed in a bomb attack on Monday.
A taxi had been used to carry the bomb, according to state-run news agency Sana.
The suburb of Jaramana where the blast occurred is predominantly populated by Christians and Druze, who follow an offshoot of Shia Islam.
Pictures of the aftermath of the bombing showed several destroyed vehicles and damage to surrounding buildings.
Government offensiveViolence continued across Syria on Tuesday, with reports of shelling around Damascus and fighting in the northern province of Idlib.
Several districts to the east of Damascus came under heavy attack, activists said, as government forces step up efforts to clear the area of anti-government forces.
Opposition fighters regrouped there after the regime claimed to have expelled them from the capital a month ago, the BBC’s Barbara Plett reports from neighbouring Lebanon.
Anti-regime forces have been using guerrilla-style hit-and-run tactics in the capital since then, our correspondent adds.
Over the weekend, more than 200 people were reported killed in the town of Darayya near Damascus, the latest in a series of mass killings which have shocked Syrians.
Clashes were also reported on Tuesday in Idlib province, with activists saying 13 people had been killed by an air strike in the town of Kafr Nabl.
Meanwhile, the number of refugees fleeing into Turkey from Syria could reach 200,000, the UN’s refugee agency has warned.
In the past two weeks, 5,000 people have been crossing the border every day, compared with 500 a day earlier in the month, according to the UNHCR.The flow of refugees into Turkey has increased significantly in recent weeks, the UNHCR says
The Turkish authorities are planning to set up extra camps for the refugees but have warned they may soon run out of space.
Turkey already plays host to almost 80,000 Syrian refugees and has called on the international community to help share the burden.
Turkish officials have suggested the UN may need to create safe zones in Syria to cope with the influx.
The rate of arrivals at the Zaatari camp in northern Jordan has also doubled over the past week, according to the UNHCR.
The agency says it has also noted an increase in the number of unaccompanied children arriving in Jordan.
“Some children report that their parents have died, or are staying behind in Syria to look after relatives, or are working in other countries,” UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said.
In the latest battle for Damascus, the regime has unleashed overwhelming force to try to inflict a definitive defeat on the armed opposition in the capital.
Its indiscriminate bombardments and sweeping ground assaults also appear aimed at sending a message of deterrence to the sympathetic communities who host the rebels. The risk is that this will only breed greater hatred for the state amongst these working-class Sunni districts, rather than turn them against the fighters.
The rebels have adopted guerrilla tactics that are almost impossible for a conventional army to counter, and they’re still mounting attacks more than a week after the military offensive was launched. In such an uneven battle the rebels win by not losing, and the regime loses by not winning.
Syria’s refugee exodus is accelerating and up to 200,000 people could settle in Turkey alone if the conflict worsens, the United Nations warned on Tuesday, increasing pressure for creation of a buffer zone inside Syria.
Turkey has floated the idea of a “safe zone” to be set up for civilians under foreign protection as fighting has intensified in a 17-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
Up to 5,000 refugees a day have been crossing into Turkey over the past two weeks while the pace of refugees arriving at a camp in northern Jordan has doubled, heralding what could be a much bigger movement there, the U.N. refugee agency said.
Although there is no sign divided world powers are ready to back a buffer and no-fly zone, as rebels and aid organizations would like, U.N. Security Council foreign ministers are expected to discuss the idea at a meeting on Thursday.
While Turkey could in theory create a buffer zone itself, it has said it is reluctant to go it alone.
Already hosting more than 80,000 refugees, Turkey has warned it could run out of space if the number goes above 100,000.
“We are already looking at potentially up to 200,000 and are working with the Turkish government to make the necessary plans,” Sybella Wilkes, spokeswoman of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told Reuters in Geneva.
Turkey fears the presence of refugees fleeing a conflict with a sectarian dimension could worsen its own tensions as well as straining resources.
Turkey will open four new camps for Syrian refugees by next week, bringing its capacity to 120,000 people, its disaster management agency said, but thousands remain stuck inside Syria.
“We will be asking the United Nations to be more active in terms of helping the Syrians on their side of the border,” said one Turkish official, who declined to be named. He complained that Turkey had received little help so far.
Relations between Turkey and Syria have deteriorated sharply during the uprising. Syria accuses its neighbor, hosting rebel forces, of backing ‘terrorist’ infiltration and shot down a Turkish plane in June.
The refugee flow to Turkey has grown as fighting has worsened around Syria’s biggest city, Aleppo, split between rebels and Assad’s forces in a street-by-street battle that has ground on for weeks.
Heavy fighting has also returned to districts around Damascus, one month after rebels were driven back from the centre of the capital. Twelve people were killed by a car bomb at a funeral in Damascus on Tuesday, state television said. Activists said the attack targeted Assad supporters.
At least 18,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million Syrians are in need of aid or assistance, the United Nations says. More than 200,000 refugees have registered in neighboring countries, though significantly more have left Syria.
At the Azaz-Kilis crossing, the main route into Turkey from Aleppo, Syrians described dire conditions for refugees still trapped on the other side of the border.
“We saw people sitting on the street and sleeping. They don’t have a toilet. It’s very bad … No food. Children in the street,” said Juma’a Handawi, shortly after crossing.
Pick-up trucks crammed with people, mattresses, clothes and wooden furniture ferry refugees to the border. Rebel fighters draped with ammunition belts and carrying automatic rifles loiter among women and children waiting to cross.
Ankara fears a mass influx on the scale of the 1991 Gulf War, when half a million people poured into Turkey.
OBSTACLES AT U.N.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who will chair Thursday’s U.N. meeting, said on Monday a no-fly zone may become an inevitability if refugee numbers continue to soar, while U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Turkey this month that all measures including a no-fly zone were on the table.
But no U.N. Security Council member has formally proposed such a measure and there are legal and practical obstacles to establishing such a zone, diplomats say, as well as strong opposition from Russia and China.
“At the moment we’re not expecting much,” said one French diplomatic source of the meeting on Thursday.
Many of the refugees in Turkey and other neighboring states have been housed in schools and sports centers but, with the academic term due to begin, they are being moved on.
Refugees sheltering at schools in Marj, a town in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, were told to find somewhere else to stay after the education ministry ordered all schools to be cleared by September 2 for the registration of students, a local official said.
Men, women and children stood in the street in front of one school with their bags and suitcases, some unsure where to go.
“I will look for a house to rent and if we can’t find one, we will have to go back to Syria, and whatever will happen is going to happen,” said Abu Amar, who fled from fighting in the Damascus district of Kafr Souseh last month.
Activists said the new wave of refugees to Jordan may have been caused by shelling on houses in the southern town of Busra al-Sham that killed at least 15 women and children last week.
Jordan called for help with the refugee influx.
“We are being burnt by the impact of this crisis in a direct manner,” Minister of State for Information Samih Maaytah told Reuters.
(Additional reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis in Amman, Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Afif Dab in Lebanon, John Irish in Paris; Writing by Nick Tattersall and Dominic Evans; Editing by Matthew Tostevin)
Aleppo’s ancient city a victim of Syrian war: ALEPPO, Syria – Ruled successively by Hittites, Greeks, Romans and Ottomans, Aleppo’s ancient city has survived violent change over thousands of years. But the modern weaponry of Syria’s escalating civil war is proving too much.
A British doctor has used her summer holiday to travel to war-torn Syria and provide medical help to victims trapped in the conflict.
Rachael Craven, 42, usually works as anesthetist for the National Health Service in Bristol. But she has spent the past two weeks in a war zone, treating casualties in a secret hospital that is being run by humanitarian aid agency Medicine San Frontier inside northern Syria.
Operating without the permission of the Syrian government and fearing it could come under attack by regime artillery the hospital is in the guise of a civilian home.
“Luckily it is not like a house in the UK that is furnished with carpets. This had marble floors; the kitchen is a sterilisation room and the living and reception rooms have been turned into the operating theatres and recovery rooms,” said Dr Craven. “The courtyard is the emergency room”.
She was part of a team of local doctors and foreign staff that worked around the clock to treat the constant stream of patients. Snatched moments of rest were taken on the exposed hospital rooftop.
“We slept on the roof. Accommodation is a premium in northern Syria because of the influx from Aleppo. Any house has three or four families staying with them already,” said Dr Craven. “We were at risk of shelling but so far it is a relatively safe area. I think a bigger is when the rain starts!”
The hospital was nearly always full, with patients sometimes spilling out on mats laid on the balconies. “Every few days we would have a mass casualty event. Either when a battle had taken place near us and we saw a lot of rebel casualties, or after shelling attacks where the victims were civilians,” said Dr. Craven.
Close to the end of her stay an artillery barrage hit a village bazaar where locals had been gathering supplies: “The local field clinic took care of most of the casualties in the market, but it was an hour before anybody checked the nearby basement where fifteen children had been playing. Shrapnel had come in through the ground level windows.
“The children were all from one extended family and were from two to 18 years old. Five were killed outright; a few were taken to a local clinic and the rest were brought to us. One was dead on arrival, another died with us, we were able to do surgery on two, and two were sent to Turkey,” said Dr. Craven.
For the past seven years Dr Craven has been using her annual leave to volunteer with MSF in some of the world’s most galling humanitarian tragedies and dangerous conflict zones. She has worked in Congo, Indonesia, Haiti after the earthquake and in Libya in the city of Misurata when it was besieged.
Syria was one of the most difficult operations yet. The whole medical team and hospital equipment had first to be smuggled across an international border and there no escape route should the hospital come under attack.
“There was one occasion when there was a push by government forces and we were aware that a set of tanks were heading very close to us. We were on standby to evacuate, but we had a patient who was critical and could not be transferred. It is not something they really cover in medical training in the UK, the decision of where take a patient into theatre and so commit the rest of your team to stay [in a dangerous situation].
“Every day you had a mental tally in your head of which patients would have to come with you is you had to evacuate. We had one ambulance and one car that we could use,” said Dr. Craven.
Working conditions were extremely difficult, with the medical staff having to adapt to a back-to-basics approach. “You can’t have ventilators and other similar equipment because of things like electricity. It was not uncommon for the operating theatre to be plunged into darkness and then you lose your oxygen and that is dangerous. You need solid simple tools,” said Dr. Craven.
Dr Craven said the hospital also depended on the “exceptional” local staff, who have been working for several months without a break, often treating victims that are their friends or relatives, and on the “amazing spirit” of villagers near the hospital: “If we were ever shot of blood the imam would put out a message at evening prayer and there would be a queue of volunteers”.
Now back at work at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, Dr Craven said that she was likely to use her remaining two weeks of holiday to return to Syria: “It brings a whole new perspective on life and work at home”.