French surgeon Jacque Beres who recently returned to Paris from Syria describes the bloodbath he saw there as among the most horrific he has ever witnessed in his 40 years of work in war zones.
Beres spent 12 days in the besieged city of Homs in February after smuggling himself in, setting up a makeshift hospital in a private residence in the battered neighborhood of Baba Amro.
He operated on 89 people, many of whom he says were the elderly, women and children. He was able to save most, but nine died on the operating table and another two within a day.
“The light was horrible, just a bulb hanging from the ceiling, and the water was scarce,” the 72-year-old French surgeon and co-founder of Doctors without Borders told the Toronto Star. “There was so much dust in the air, and it would go into the open wounds of patients.”
Beres went to Syria at the behest of France-Syrie Democracy and the Union of Muslim Associations in France. He crossed the border illegally from Lebanon and managed - seemingly as the only Western doctor- to reach Homs.
“This is hell” said Beres on Tuesday at a meeting of human rights activists in Geneva.
“It’s mass murder. It’s totally unfair. It’s unjustifiable”
Beres, who has worked in warzones including Iraq, Rwanda and Chechnya, said that the people in Homs lived in despair despite their gratitude to journalists for reporting their plight to the world.
“They say it’s good that you’re thinking about us, but they said it doesn’t give us food, medicine or weapons.”
The Syrian uprising began a year ago with protests in a number of the country’s provinces. The United Nations say over 7,5000 civilians have since died across the country as President Bashar al-Assad cracked down on dissent.
The Syrian president blames foreign backed terrorists for the carnage. Activists and journalists, however, say that it is a popular revolt with mainly civilian casualties as the army’s mortar rockets blow apart building and scatter shrapnel.
“The people who are dying are not terrorists, they are ordinary people who deserve their freedom,” Beres told the Star.
In Homs, which is a key flashpoint in the uprising, Assad’s snipers have become a widespread threat with decaying bodies littering the streets.
“We couldn’t treat head or chest injuries at all,” Beres said. “We had to just pass on them because they were so risky. It was just possible to manage abdominal and limb injuries.”
Beres said he plans to return to Syria in the coming weeks, with the non-governmental organization, Medecins du Monde, to work in northern part of the country.
“The game is over in Homs,” he said. “It has become impossible for the time being to do something in that area.
“But the world needs to not forget them. We need to keep sending journalists and humanitarian people to bring pressure on this dictatorial regime.”
(Written by Sara Ghasemilee)