Children getting used to bloodshed

Children are dying as the fighting in Aleppo rages and the civilian population suffers, but those children who stay on with their families say they are becoming accustomed to the daily bloodshed.

By (AFP)

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Published: Sat 29 Sep 2012, 9:24 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 3:28 PM

“Am I afraid? No. Now I’m used to it,” says 12-year-old Ahmed of the violence engulfing his neighbourhood in the northern Syrian city.

Ahmed is kicking a ball around in a street a few hundred metres from the front line in Saif Al Dawla, a neighbourhood that has seen fierce fighting between government troops and rebels.

He stays with his younger brother, two sisters and parents in his grandfather’s house, where his uncles also live.

His family had to leave their own home in the city’s Salhine district after it came under heavy bombardment by warplanes and artillery.

“My school was destroyed and perhaps my house too will be soon,” he says in a calm voice.

But his tone changes when he recalls an air strike on Monday that shattered two residential buildings in the district of Maadi.

“My aunt died with her two daughters. They bombarded the place and their house collapsed. My uncle survived, but his body is covered in wounds,” Ahmed says.

His mother says: “My sister-in-law was found dead, clutching her two children who died in her arms.”

Sitting inside the house at the foot of mauve seats lining the walls are Shahad, eight, Aya, seven and three-year-old Hammoud, feeding breadcrusts to a kitten that has somehow sneaked in.

“At night when we’re asleep, mum and dad wake us up when there’s bombing. It is true we were afraid at first, but it’s different now,” says Aya with a gap-toothed smile.

If Aya, like her brother, says she is getting used to the sounds of explosions and gunfire from snipers stationed in nearby buildings, Shahad does admit she is scared.

“On television I see a lot of bodies on the ground,” she says.

“Every bomb we go into hiding, down in the basement or in the mosque because everyone is dying.” — AFP

At the entrance to the building, their father, Ayman, 36, has set up a makeshift swing made of rope, a cushion and a ceiling hook.

“Earlier we girls used to play on the balcony. Now there are no balconies — they all fell down,” says Shahad.

Her brother may venture out with his ball, but he never strays very far from the house. Ayman and his wife ensure that the children are always in their sight.

At a burst of gunfire from Kalashnikov assault rifles and the sound of rockets, they all huddle together inside after closing the iron gate to the house behind them.

But in Aleppo, nobody is really secure and the gate provides little protection. The living room where they spend their days looks out over a deserted street in which rockets and sniper bullets have the right of way. — AFP

It killed five members of one family, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

At least 30,000 people, including more than 2,000 children, have died in the conflict since it erupted in March 2011, according to figures supplied by the Observatory.

Global aid agency Save the Children warned on Tuesday that many Syrian children who have witnessed killings, torture and other atrocities have been severely traumatised by the violence ravaging the country.

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