children injured by “rebel” shelling of Manar school, Damascus

On the morning of April 15, “rebels” in Jobar district east of Damascus shelled a Damascus elementary school, killing one child and injuring at least 62 more, some of whom are critically-injured, some of whom lost limbs. A second school–a kindergarten–was also shelled the same morning, in the same densely-inhabited Christian area of Damascus, injuring 3 more children.


see also:  two schools shelled in Damascus, killing one child and injuring 65 more

two schools shelled in Damascus, killing one child and injuring 65 more

This morning, “rebels” shelled a Damascus elementary school, killing one child and injuring at least 62 more, some of whom are critically-injured, some of whom lost limbs.  A second school–a kindergarten–was also shelled the same morning, in the same densely-inhabited Christian area of Damascus, injuring 3 more children.

Below is an interview with Mother Agnes, on the shelling of the school and the situation in Syria in general.

Old Damascus city scenes

Scenes from old Damascus, including the Umayyad mosque

Culture and history overdose in a short space of time. Definitely an area that begs repeated visits.

Wandering around the mosque, I met a variety of women, children, men. Some women picnicking in the mosque’s courtyard asked me to join them; two kids, Majed and Ghelia (“expensive”) befriended me and accompanied me around, also gave me a short interview.

The scene was tranquility, cooing pigeons, gorgeous light, gorgeous flowers and scents.  It’s important to keep in mind that Syrians are struggling to live life as normal during this manufactured chaos.

The souk (market) was bustling with the usual scenes in Arab markets: spice vendors, freshly pressed juice vendors, Gold jewelry shops, odds and ends. I got my jasmin essence fix at the first perfumery I came across, and my zataar fix at the first spice vendor in my path.

Despite the aforementioned tranquility, the fascinating alleys and very pleasant people I met, one is also always aware that somewhere in the vicinity battles are being waged between the Syrian army and the seemingly endless variety of largely-foreign mercenaries.  The ancient Christian town, Maaloula (from which I’m told most of the Christian inhabitants have fled after, as in other Christian areas, being repeatedly attacked by mercenaries) is said to have been re-gained by the Syrian army (see here and here also).

But for now, I’ll share these old Damascus scenes and hope that it remains as largely tranquil as it seems.

scenery from Syria

Scenes from Syrian countryside and cities, because it is important to understand (at the most basic level) a bit about the  layout, the rich and diverse culture, and what is “normal”…three years of attacks aside. And there is, actually, contrary to media in my own country, support for the president here. I remain open to meeting with and hearing from Syrians (not foreign mercenaries) who disagree with the current president, flat out hate him, or anywhere in between. Until now, however, having been in Damascus, Latakia, and Homs, I’ve met supporters only, and unabashed ones at that. Please keep in mind, this in not me championing him or his government; I am reporting what Syrians have said to me. And when I hear otherwise, I’ll report that too.

Upcoming posts will include:

-the recent “rebel” car-bombings (plural) in Homs, targeting civilian areas

-interviews with the displaced from the greater Aleppo/Idlib area

-interviews with average Syrians and with participants of the peace delegation I’m on

-the words of Syria’s grand Mufti, whose son was killed by “rebels” and who yet preaches forgiveness

-a meeting with opposition members, supportive of elections and of the current president Assad


Gaza in Crisis: a talk I gave in Austin, TX, in March 2014

Since, as I’ve mentioned in recent posts, the issue of the Israeli-manufactured misery in Gaza must be kept in the minds of those who know about and support Palestinians in Gaza–and ideally introduced into the minds of good people who otherwise are unaware–I’m posting a video of a talk I gave a few weeks ago in Austin, with big thanks to Jeffry Zavala [ZGraphix] who filmed and edited the talk and put it out there. Link re the Amira Hass reference. Link re IOF attacks even as far as 2 km from border. Link re the remotely-operated machine-gun towers. Link to Farmers routinely under Israeli army fire.

I am in Syria at the moment, educating myself on the reality of Syrians’ own internationally-manufactured suffering, but Gaza remains in my heart and I hope yours as well.

conversations in Syria



I arrived Wednesday afternoon to Damascus and am sharing some photos from en route and one area of the city.  Sticking my camera in anyone’s face who wishes to talk and will share their thoughts here, too.

Whereas yesterday en route I noted to myself the surreality of being in Syria, a place I have read much about and am aware has been torn apart over the past few years, and seeing such beauty and relative calm along the route to Damascus and later in the particular area of Damascus I am in, this morning reality came crashing in, some sort of mortar attack roughly two hundred metres away.

explosion, Damascus, Apr 10 morning

explosion, Damascus, Apr 10 morning

Those outside, mostly people dressed in work clothes, scrambled along the streets to get where they were destined before any other attacks. I don’t know the origin of the mortar; some speculate that mercenaries in the hills fired it toward the city.

Raslan Khadour, Dean of Economics, Damascus University

Raslan Khadour, Dean of Economics, Damascus University

This afternoon, I chatted with Professor Raslan Khadour, Dean of the Faculty of Economics at Damascus University. He spoke of the situation in Syria, in general, and the impact on university studies. Like others I’ve had the chance to speak with already, he sees what is happening in and to Syria as part of a wider geo-political strategy.

“The problem is not a Syrian one only. It was not only in Syria, but also Tunisia, Egypt and other countries. It’s a foreign plan for various countries in the region.  There is intervention by the west, especially American, British and Israeli intelligence. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have given the rebels a lot of money.”

“The terrorist groups have stolen stores of wheat, in Aleppo in the north, along the Turkish border. They export it, sell it to Turkey. The west’s blockade is against the Syrian people, not against Assad.”

“The biggest problem we face at university is security. Sometimes they fire shells at us. Getting to and from the university can be impossible sometimes, because the terrorists cut the road. They bomb bridges in some areas.”

Syrian refugees in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley, Fayda camp

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Fayda Syrian refugee camp, Lebanon

In Zahle, a region in the Bekaa Valley, eastern Lebanon, the day before crossing into Syria, we visit one of the many areas where refugee tent-homes have sprung up over the past few years. Many of the displaced Syrians in the Fayda camp are from Aleppo, Homs, Idlib, Raqqa…


The UN reports that there are around one million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, but these are registered refugees, the number of un-registered refugees isn’t known. The camp we go to is not one of the UN organized camps; people in Fayda rent their plot of cement, erect simple dwellings of metal poles and scraps of plastic banners. While the homes themselves are sturdier than dwellings I’ve seen in occupied Palestine (particularly Susiya, whose residents were expelled by the standard Israeli policy of declaring a Palestinian area a “closed military zone,” or the tents of Palestinians in Gaza whose homes were bombed or demolished by the Israeli army), the living conditions of the Syrians in Fayda are dismal. Most notably, the water is contaminated with the raw sewage running through ditches flanking the camp.