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Shattered residents regroup after Syrian offensive in Idlib

They describe a government onslaught marked by bouts of terror, wanton destruction behind closed doors and strange moments of kindness by soldiers.

March 24, 2012|By Los Angeles Times Staff

But in other homes, even ones where no one was suspected of being a rebel fighter, there was willful destruction, she said. In a friend's home, the washing machine, TV and computer were shot up and all their plates and other ceramics were destroyed, she said.

"From Saturday to Saturday, no one left the house," said Um Widad, a mother of four in Shimali. "We lived the whole time on edge."

There was no electricity during the day and water was cut off, she said. Only people in older homes with wells had access to water, and they distributed small buckets of it to their neighbors.

"Just something for eating and drinking," Um Widad said. "We would save as much as we could so it would last — no washing, no cleaning."

Not until last Sunday did she and a few other women venture out for basic necessities. The men stayed inside for fear they would be detained and possibly killed. Um Widad went out to get medicine for her 74-year-old father, a gaunt man who has asthma and Parkinson's disease.

"There's still fear," she said.

Her husband, Abu Widad, said they hadn't heard of any neighbors being killed but that about 40 men they know were taken by soldiers. They hadn't yet learned their fates.

"There are still bodies under a bridge where no one can get to them; anyone who goes near gets shot at," Abu Widad said.

On the Monday after the army came in, people discovered 20 bodies in front of a high school, he said. A few young men went to retrieve them and were shot and killed, he said. For three days no one dared approach the bodies, until the army gathered them and dumped them in one of the city's roundabouts.

Throughout Shimali, antigovernment graffiti had been replaced with pro-regime slogans. On an interior wall of a demolished storefront were the words "Assad's reforms," a taunting reference to protesters' early calls for political change.

In an adjacent district called Jamiaa, a shell had left a gaping hole on the top floor of an apartment building. On the side of the building was scrawled, "Here passed Assad's men."

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