Idlib Calling: Advanced warning

August 26, 2019

Thursday 22 August 2019

The attacks by the Russians and the Syrian army on Idlib have increased recently. In fear of the Syrian army advancing in the south, many people have been fleeing to the north of Idlib. While we’re on the phone, I hear the crackling of static and agitated voices speaking on a walkie-talkie in the background.

“Hi Ahmed”

“Hey — are you back? Did you have a good holiday?

“Yes, thanks, and you?”

“Thanks for calling. It’s not going well here – there’s little good to report. The past few weeks have been hell. The army is advancing and they say that Khan Shaykhun has been captured by the regime. That’s about 50 kilometers south of here, an hour by car. For days, refugees have been passing through, on their way north.”

“Ahmad, what’s that noise in the background?”

“That’s the walkie-talkie. We get advanced warning when planes or helicopters are coming. Just now they said that a Russian fighter jet has taken off from Khmeimim Air Base, up near Lattakia on the coast. No news yet on where it’s heading.”

“If we hear over the walkie-talkie that fighter jets are coming our way, we go to a safe place in the house, like the bathroom or the kitchen. Of course it’s not completely safe, but at least you’re protected from flying debris and glass. On the other hand, if we hear that a helicopter is coming, we have more time and we go to the countryside outside the city.”

“That’s what happened last week. You probably heard about the barrel bombs dropped on Saraqeb during the night. We heard that helicopters were coming and most people got in their cars or on their motorcycles and went out of town to safety. Just think of the chaos. It’s middle of the night and there’s traffic jams everywhere. And then there’s the fear and uncertainty: will it hit my house? Will any friends or relatives be killed?”

“The fighter jets aren’t coming our way this time, by the way. So we don’t have to hide now. Will you call again tomorrow?”


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