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Middle East

On the ground in Damascus: ‘It is us who will die’


Video by Antoine MARIOTTI , Patrick HERMANSEN

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-08-29

As a US-led intervention in Syria looms on the horizon, FRANCE 24 is one of the few Western media still on the ground in Damascus. We asked locals in the capital how they feel about the potentially-devastating conflict.

As Western powers debate a military intervention in Syria, the capital of Damascus is as busy and noisy as ever. Shops are open for business, public transport is running and the streets are choked by traffic.

The UN team of inspectors investigating the apparent poison gas attack in Syria will leave the country by Saturday morning, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday.

He added he would share the results "and our analysis of samples and evidence" with members of the UN Security Council and all UN countries.

Ban said he had spoken on Wednesday to US President Barack Obama, as the United States appears to be moving closer to a military strike, and had expressed his hope that the investigation team "should be allowed to continue their work as mandated by the member states".

Ban has repeatedly spoken out against military action in Syria, which the US, Britain and France have been pushing for, against opposition from fellow UN Security Council members Russia and China.

FRANCE 24 is one of the only remaining Western media in the city, alongside CNN and The Wall Street Journal.

Our reporters have been asking locals what they feel about an impending military intervention, which analysts say could begin within days.

Army sites and government complexes stud the bustling residential quarters and crisscross streets of Damascus, making military targets in the capital hard to reach without the risk of collateral damage.

“[An airstrike] would be impossible because there are a lot of people in Damascus,” one woman told our reporters. “How could they hit such a densely populated city? If their intentions are humanitarian, why do they want to hit us?

“It's us who will die, it's us who will pay the price,” she added.

Concern for civilian casualties in the country has led many to site the catastrophic US-led war in Iraq, which has left at least 115,000 people dead since it began in 2003.

“I don't believe the Americans will intervene because they don't want to make the same mistakes they made in Iraq,” one man told our reporters. “We shouldn't forget that Syria is different to Iraq.”

Others took the government line in front of the camera. “The citizens of Syria trust their army and their government,” one man said. “It doesn't matter which army wishes to come here, let them come! But Syria will be their grave.”

His sentiments echoed those of Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi, who warned on Tuesday that the country would become a “graveyard of the invaders” if there was a military intervention.

Damascus has been living in a state of emergency for months, with continual army checkpoints, a lack of imported commodities and frequent power cuts, making daily life a struggle.

President Bashar al-Assad has remained defiant throughout the two-and-a-half year uprising against him, and has continued to rebuff threats from global powers, even as the US, the UK and France draw up contingency plans for imminent action. But in one sign that his regime is taking precautions against a potential attack, our reporters in Damascus said that by nightfall on Tuesday, the Syrian ministry of defence had been left in darkness.

Date created : 2013-08-29


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