Syria: Civilians Come Under Fire From Rebels

Syria: Civilians Come Under Fire From Rebels

We knew what was coming and so wore flak jackets and helmets. The demonstrators knew what was coming, had no protection, and still walked straight into the line of fire.

The demonstrators were predominantly Syrian Palestinians, many from the Yarmouk district of Damascus who had fled when it was taken over by opposition forces eight months ago.

Some screamed at us: "Please tell the world the truth! We don't want the fighters here, we want the army to kill them!"

A few carried the portrait of President Assad, others the Syrian or Palestinian flag.

One woman called the Free Syrian Army (FSA) "dogs" and said the men in Yarmouk were not Syrians but from Chechnya and Afghanistan. We could not verify this.

The armed men in Yarmouk had warned the demonstrators not to approach saying they would open fire.

The fact that a few Syrian army soldiers were accompanying the demonstrators made that a certainty.

About 1,000 people were in the demonstration. A few religious leaders and women were in the front rows as they approached where the opposition forces had a clear field of fire.

The shooting began almost immediately. A man went down, followed by others. The army officer who had insisted on escorting us was hit by shrapnel.

The demonstrators broke ranks and fled back across no man's land, some of the women crying with fear.

As they passed us a man stopped and shouted that he was sure the fighters were not Syrians but men paid to come to Damascus and kill people. Another man shouted that they were "animals".

More soldiers arrived taking up positions facing the opposition forces. Heavy machine gun fire rumbled around the area mixing with the crack of sniper's bullets and the rattle of semi-automatic weapons.

There were occasional explosions. The firefight went on for more than an hour.

The army later claimed to have killed 10 fighters and said three soldiers were injured along with at least five civilians.

I've been in areas held by Syrian FSA fighters where there was clearly support for the opposition forces, but almost two years ago I first came across areas where the FSA was feared by the population and the Syrian Army viewed as liberators.

It's impossible to gauge the numbers of people who fall into the two camps. All we could do was report what we saw on this day, in this place.