Witness Describes Syrian Crackdown On Protesters

Syrian tanks and troops descended on Daraa Monday, clamping down on protests and bringing life there to a standstill. Melissa Block speaks with a resident of Daraa, Syria, about the situation there.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

We heard Kelly talk about the besieged southern city of Daraa. Syrian tanks and troops descended on Daraa on Monday, clamping down on protests and bringing light there to a standstill.

We reached by satellite phone a man who is in Daraa just this morning, he says filming the crackdown. He's 35 years old and works in the mobile phone industry. To protect himself he gave us a pseudonym, Iham.

Among the things he told us he saw are government snipers on rooftops and a population that's so afraid that few venture outside, even for Friday prayers.

IHAM: (Through Translator) There's no power, no water, no bread, no gas, no fuel. We are living on candlelight.

BLOCK: You're describing a city that's essentially under siege. People are prisoners of their homes at this point?

IHAM: (Through Translator) Yes. Yes, it's a ghost town. If anyone looks out of the window the snipers get them.

BLOCK: There are reports that protesters around Syria today and other cities around Syria today were chanting: With our blood, with our souls, we will sacrifice for you, Daraa. Do you feel that you have the support of the country behind what started there in the south, in Daraa?

IHAM: (Through Translator) Aside from the hypocrites, everyone is with us. Only those that are benefiting from the current regime are with President Bashar Assad.

BLOCK: How hard is it to get in and out?

IHAM: (Through Translator) You can only come and go from the city on the agricultural roads.

BLOCK: Can you describe the presence of the Syrian army in Daraa right now?

IHAM: (Through Translator) The army's Fifth Division has joined with the people, unlike the Fourth Division. And I have a list of martyrs, 47 names. I have that with me now. And we're not able to take the bodies to hospitals because thugs are stealing them. We're placing them in large refrigerator trucks instead. The number of wounded people is over 500.

BLOCK: Just to be clear, the people who have been killed, the names that you have on that list, when were they killed?

IHAM: (Through Translator) These are people who were killed up until yesterday in the last three days. There were children who were killed. A child named Shiraz Imad ElBatak(ph) was killed and a woman who was eight months pregnant and her fetus were both killed. And the martyr Jamaal Abdullah Abudabus(ph), an imam of the mosque, he was killed - he was assassinated at the mosque. And Osema al-Masalim(ph), a nurse, was also killed.

BLOCK: You mentioned the Fifth Division of the army that you say has joined with the opposition, with the protesters. Can you tell me more about that?

IHAM: (Through Translator) Yes, the Fifth Division and the Fourth Division are exchanging bullets with each other. The Fifth Division is protecting the people. Massacres are happening, catastrophic massacres.

BLOCK: Is it something you were able to observe with your own eyes in Daraa?

IHAM: (Through Translator) Yes. Yes. And I have a video but there's no Internet. When communication is restored, I will upload this video and send it to human rights organizations, to Al-Jazeera and all news agencies.

BLOCK: And this firing that you're describing, was this today?

IHAM: (Through Translator) Yes, today there is heavy fire. And I would like to send a message through you to the United Nations and to human rights organizations.

BLOCK: And what is that message?

IHAM: (Through Translator) I'm sending a plea to the United Nations and to all Arab leaders to support us. I'm sending a plea to human rights organizations, President Obama, and all European countries to stand with the Syrian people against this fascist regime. He is eradicating his people, complete eradication.

BLOCK: We have seen the international community respond militarily, of course, in Libya. I'm wondering what you would want the international community to do in Syria, specifically.

IHAM: (Through Translator) I don't want the international community to intervene militarily. We will protect ourselves. The international community should exert pressure on President Assad.

BLOCK: Iham, thank you very much for talking with us today.

IHAM: Welcome (Foreign language spoken)

BLOCK: We've been hearing from a 35-year-old Syrian man. Iham is a pseudonym we've used for his protection. He was in the southern city of Daraa this morning and described the government crackdown there.

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