On the front line in Syria, a family dug their own shelter

In his village in northwest Syria, close to the front line, Ahmad Khalil dug his own shelter in the rock to escape the bombings and not have to live in a displaced persons camp

On the front line in Syria, a family dug their own shelter

In his village in northwest Syria, close to the front line, Ahmad Khalil dug his own shelter in the rock to escape the bombings and not have to live in a displaced persons camp.

"People tell us to go to a camp for displaced people, but the situation in the camps is a thousand times worse than here. There is no help or food," the 53-year-old told AFP. with a full beard.

“I prefer to stay here under the bombings,” he adds, specifying that in 2017 he dug this shelter in land belonging to him and which adjoins his house in Kansafra, in the Idleb region, the last jihadist and rebel stronghold in Syria. .

The village, located less than two kilometers from the front line, is the target of Syrian regime artillery bombardments on jihadist positions, according to an AFP correspondent.

The shelling by the army of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian ally has intensified in recent weeks, forcing him to take refuge every day in the shelter he dug for a month, sometimes manually, with the help of workers.

“There are always reconnaissance planes flying over the village and the region, it never stops,” says this father.

Started in 2011, the civil war has left more than half a million dead and displaced millions of Syrians. Nearly half of the inhabitants of the Idlib region, which has some three million people, are displaced.

In the locality deserted by a large number of inhabitants and where many buildings are in ruins, Ahmad Khalil lives in a permanent state of alert.

His bunker, where he spends much of his time with his two wives and seven children, is lit by daylight coming from a hole he created, and by a dim lamp.

The floor is covered with white and blue mats, and jars of grape leaves and other fermented vegetables are lined up in one corner.

“We have no neighbors. It’s not a life,” Mr. Khalil repeats, resigned.

The businesses still open in the village can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

To buy bread, Ahmad Khalil is forced to go to the neighboring village of Balioun, two kilometers away, "under the bombs".

“My children live alone, they have no one to play with,” he laments.

"I can tolerate this situation. But the children, what is wrong with them? They dream of being able to play outside like other children, of playing football in the street, of riding bikes. But they are locked in this shelter which is like a grave.

22/09/2023 17:30:39 -         Kansafra (Syria) (AFP) -         © 2023 AFP