• A rebel fighter keeps watch over the Karm al-Jabal neighbourhood of Syria's northern city of Aleppo on May 25, 2014. (AAP)
As the battle for Aleppo rages on, Sophie Cousins travelled to the Syrian city to witness first-hand the toll nearly two years of insurrection has had on the ruined city.
By
Sophie Cousins

26 May 2014 - 12:50 PM  UPDATED 26 May 2014 - 12:54 PM

"Welcome to Aleppo: the most dangerous city in the world," a friend turned to me and said after a rocket narrowly avoided hitting the car we were travelling in towards what used to be Syria’s most populous city.

"Now the movie starts."

But this movie sadly doesn’t have an ending.

As we enter the opposition-held area of Aleppo, there are no words to describe the complete devastation and destruction of what was once a beautiful and historical city.

We wind through the streets littered with rubble, burnt cars and checkpoints.

One night as we drove across the frontline in complete darkness and with no headlights on so not to be a target, I asked my friend if he was scared of dying.

"We used to be sacred of the snipers and everything, now we just laugh. What else can you do?"

Amidst the sadness and horror, I guess he’s right.

We pass destroyed buildings, and neighbourhoods, completely flattened by barrel bombs that continue to menace what is left of this part of the city.

It is here where two-thirds of the city’s civilians have fled; the rest have died or remain, either because they do not have enough money to leave, or they refuse to leave their city, their country.

Some neighbourhoods are completely derelict, devoid of any life. It is difficult to imagine life existed here before the war.

Upon reaching a hospital, which cannot be named because it has been targeted numerous times by government forces, sand bags replace windows. Medical students and teenagers replace doctors. What should be considered a safe haven is considered a legitimate target for attack.

At this hospital, the majority of patients are children. Innocent children indiscriminately targeted by barrel bombs, snipers, mortars and rockets.

Families weep outside shakily holding onto one another, praying that their child makes it. One girl is brought in who requires urgent surgery on her leg and head, as a result of an air strike.

Her mother is in the other operating room, having her face stitched back together and the shrapnel removed from her chest. The floor is covered in blood. The stench is overwhelming.

The never-ending sound of helicopters hovering above carrying 900 kilograms of explosives and metal fragments is frightening. Anyone and everyone is a target. People constantly scan the sky but the helicopters are too high to see until it’s too late. The barrel has fins welded on it so as it falls out of the sky, it points down, for maximum impact. The sound of an explosion is so powerful, so loud, you can feel it kilometres away.

There’s often no electricity in the city unless you can afford a generator. There’s food, if you can afford the inflated prices. But there are no schools – the government has targeted them all. Just recently more than 20 children were killed at Ein Jalout school in the eastern part of Aleppo by an air strike.

But people here are no longer afraid of death; they expect it. They believe that if God wants them to go, they will.

One night as we drove across the frontline in complete darkness and with no headlights on so not to be a target, I asked my friend if he was scared of dying.

"We used to be sacred of the snipers and everything, now we just laugh. What else can you do?"

Amidst the sadness and horror, I guess he’s right.

One evening we played table tennis in a ruined building, with sand bags covering what used to be windows. A small light lit up the table just enough for us to see the ball.

There were jokes and laughs. And a lot of tea. When a barrel is dropped close by, people don’t even flinch.

My face tenses.

"Just think of it as music accompanying our evening," one friend said.

I ask him how he defines the situation here in Aleppo.

"How can you call it a civil war when all we have are AK-47s?

"What have we ever done to Assad? All we wanted was freedom."