Bloodshed in Bab Qebli: portrait from Syria’s violent crackdown on Hama

Shortly after breakfast, Khaled al-Hamedh left his home to buy medicine for his four-year-old brother, who had a fever. He never came home. Several hours later, family members laid him to rest in the garden of nearby al-Serjawi mosque, a bullet wound in his back and his body crushed by a tank. As the 21-year-old construction worker walked out into Hama’s Bab Qebli neighbourhood on Sunday morning, Syrian security forces were encroaching on the city with tanks, firing into residential areas. The scene was by now all-too-familiar in cities across Syria, as the authorities continued to try to put down months of mainly peaceful protests calling for government reform. Khaled had himself finished military service in January, a few months before he was faced with tanks on the streets of his hometown.“All the pharmacies had closed because of the security operation, so Khaled set out on foot for al-Hikmeh hospital on the city’s main street, a five-minute walk away,” an eyewitness told Amnesty International. He never made it to the hospital. “Several minutes after he had left home, the sound of shooting broke out. Family members rushed out behind him, but they returned home in fear when they saw the tanks moving along the main street,” the eyewitness said.Bystanders would later recount to them how Khaled died. “He was shot in the back while attempting to cross over to the hospital,” they said. “He fell on the ground but nobody was able to take him away from the street as the tanks were near by. That is when an army tank deliberately crushed his body repeatedly.”Only when the tanks had pulled away could the bystanders approach and take Khaled’s body to the hospital.“Khaled’s friends called his father and informed him that his son was injured,” the eyewitness said. “They did not want to shock him straight away. He rushed to the hospital looking for Khaled, but could not find him among the injured. He found his corpse in the fridge.”  Before Khaled was buried, his body was brought home so his family could say goodbye. Though his body had been crushed, his face was untouched, belying the violent death he had suffered. “He was innocent,” the eyewitness said. “He did nothing wrong and harmed nobody. He was very polite and sweet.”On Sunday afternoon, Khaled was buried along with two other men in the garden of al-Serjawi mosque. Because the clashes continued, the mourners could not get to the cemetery outside the city to bury their loved ones, and the graves had to be dug in a hurry to avoid intense shooting. Yesterday, 10 more people were reportedly killed, including a 17-year-old woman who was buried in the same plot, after being shot in her home. Locals said she was a newly-wed and had a child. The military continued their attack on Hama unabated.