Azaz in northern Syria is a town under the control of the opposition. Everything from the baking of bread to the welfare of thousands of refugees from Aleppo is run by revolutionary committees.
That’s why the dictator Bashar al-Assad bombed it. He attacked with air strikes, as the regime doesn’t have the forces on the ground to take back such cities—all they had was the airport.
The result was devastation. The local hospital was so overwhelmed with casualties that it eventually had to lock its doors. It directed people to drive their injured to the nearby Turkish border for treatment on the other side.
The Azaz revolutionary committee reported the attack as it happened. They wrote, “Ten minutes ago, Azaz was attacked from the air by the Assadist air force. Three rockets have hit the city. The streets are under a shroud of dust and smoke. People are panicking.”
The committee pointed out that Azaz is now home to 85,000 people once refugees from Aleppo are added to the total. “The whole city was shaken,” they continued.
“The planes’ noise was extremely high. They broke the sound barrier, and shattered glass windows in the city. After that, sounds of explosions were heard. Azaz’s cultural centre was bombed, there’s large scale destruction in the neighbouring area and several houses have been demolished.
“The missile left a huge hole in the ground and tens of bodies are being pulled out from beneath the rubble of buildings. This is a real massacre. The street behind the prison has been completely destroyed. Casualties are in hundreds. The situation is horrible.”
But despite such air strikes and repression, thousands protested against Assad’s dictatorship across Syria on the holiday of Eid al-Fitr last weekend. Many protests took place in mosques, or at the cemeteries where people traditionally visit the graves of their relatives at Eid.
As people protest on the ground Assad’s regime continues to crack. Vice president Farouq al-Sharaa is rumoured to have defected. This comes only weeks after the prime minister denounced the regime and fled to Jordan.
“Assad has a scorched earth policy,” Hamood, a Syrian living in Britain, told Socialist Worker. “He is bombing people with long range rockets and from the air.
“It shows how much he has lost control. The West is trying to make use of the situation. But they are not in control and are not sure who will come after Assad.”
The latest protests show the resilience of the roots of the popular rebellion. But it still faces the challenges of repression by Assad and attempts by Western powers to impose their will on events.