Saturday, 26 December 2015
What It’s Like to Have Russian Jets Bomb the Crap Out of Your Town
'Aleppo’s children are now being educated in apartments on the front-lines, because their open air schools have been bombed by Russia. In these makeshift academies, the primary fear is “elephant bombs,” the regime’s “locally made” ground-to-ground missiles (so called because sound like the an elephant’s trunk blow when they’re launched) which can hit 60 or 70 times a day.
The Russian Defense Ministry has yet to claim responsibility for any civilian casualties and often denies striking in civilian-heavy locations which evidence suggests they have struck. But the claims of Russian collateral damage, Jarrah tells me, are “absolutely true. Russia is killing civilians and waging an information war. I want every single person on this planet to know that, whether they admit it or not.”
Kenan Rahmani, a Syrian-American activist, spent the better part of November in Idlib, Syria’s northwest province, which is also under constant Russian bombardment. In the town of Maarat al-Noman, he says “they bombed half a kilometer from where I was, killing three children in a school. The residents in Maarat al-Noman had gotten used to the barrel bombs,” he says, referring to metal canisters filled with shrapnel and explosives dropped from Syrian helicopters. “But these were more limited in their scale of destruction. The Russians destroy more buildings and raise the stakes for Syrians to stay alive inside. But it’s the same form of collective punishment. If you want to live in opposition areas, these are the consequences.”
On Dec. 15, Russian warplanes bombed Mash'had market in an area called Saif al-Dawla, a central marketplace in Aleppo. (ANA Press published footage of the aftermath, viewable here.) “Ten meters to the right and the missile would have landed inside the market, killing 200 or 300 people,” Jarrah says. “The attacks are not that precise. Shoot one person in a protest, and he runs away. Then the next day, more come. Then you have to shoot five people to make the same point. The Russians want to kill a lot of people at once so they don’t have to kill even more later. The marketplace, it’s like the veins of the city. If you open the veins, you bleed the city.”
So far, there has been no conspicuous hemorrhage of civilians from Aleppo because the inhabitants don’t want to leave. Jarrah says that this isn’t because they’re patriots or defiant in the face of a brutal onslaught. It’s because most of them are already internally displaced. Jarrah reckons that, apart from Aleppo’s historic Old City, where longtime residents still remain, in the “modern” districts, only about 20 percent of the current population is native. “The rest are Syria’s poorest. If they leave, they’ll have nowhere else to go.” '