backgammon football after war reaches damascus district
Last Updated : GMT 07:25:12
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Arab Today, arab today
Last Updated : GMT 07:25:12
Arab Today, arab today

Backgammon, football after war reaches Damascus district

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today Backgammon, football after war reaches Damascus district

Joseph Mghazi (R) told AFP, "I'm 73 years old. I don't have much life left, so I'm going to live what I have left
Damascus - Arab Today

When Syria's war came to 73-year-old Joseph Mghazi's street in the Abbasiyeen neighbourhood of Damascus, he ignored his neighbour's entreaties to halt his habitual streetside backgammon games.
"We would sit and play backgammon as the shells were falling around us," he told AFP in the aftermath of a rebel assault that army forces repelled on Friday after nearly a week of fighting.
"The neighbours told us we needed to hide ourselves somewhere safe, but we didn't care," he said, a pen and paper tucked in his shirt pocket to record the results of his games.
"An army patrol came by and saw us playing backgammon, and they stopped to watch."
Rebel forces based in Jobar neighbourhood -- adjacent to Mghazi's Abbasiyeen district -- launched a surprise assault on government forces in eastern Damascus on March 19.
They briefly penetrated the central Abbasid Square in fierce fighting that shuttered schools and emptied streets of residents.
But Mghazi remained stoic, and was perched on a plastic chair surrounded by his peers on Sunday, two days after the army declared the rebel offensive defeated.
"A mortar round fell there but it didn't explode," he said, pointing nearby.
"Shells entered houses sometimes, so staying at home doesn't mean you're safe from death," he added.
"I'm 73 years old. I don't have much life left, so I'm going to live what I have left with enjoyment, not in fear."
- 'Tell them to come back' -
Most of Syria's capital has remained in government hands throughout the war that began with anti-regime protests in March 2011, which has insulated its residents from much of the worst of the violence.
But the rebel assault sparked fierce fighting and killed 115 opposition fighters and 82 Syrian soldiers and allied forces, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.
Despite the violence, Osama Kastun kept his minimarket in an alley near Abbasid Square open throughout.
Under a portrait of President Bashar al-Assad hanging on his wall, he dusted the few items left on his shelves after nearly a week of fighting.
"I'm the only one that stayed open," he told AFP.
"I felt a responsiblity to provide food and vegetables to those who stayed in the neighbourhood. There were elderly people, people who couldn't leave."
He said he struggled to secure his merchandise under threat of sniper fire, using an army vehicle to get them across Abbasid Square and then wheeling them on a trolley to his shop.
"It was very risky, but it had to be done."
Other residents, like 34-year-old Myrna, fled the fighting.
On Sunday, she stuck her head out of a car window, examining the damage to her neighbours' homes as she slowly proceeded towards her own house.
"I came to inspect the situation," she told AFP.
"I left my house in the early hours of the battle. The clashes were less than 100 metres away."
"I have a baby girl who is only a few months old. I couldn't allow myself to let her live in the middle of fighting and shelling."
Nearby, 15-year-old Firas and his friends were taking advantage of the quiet to play football in a street usually crowded with cars.
With rocks marking goal posts, they kicked a ball about, seemingly oblivious to a war plane flying overheard.
"I went to school today, but I only found ten students there," he told AFP.
"The teacher told us to come back tomorrow, and to call our friends and tell them to come back because the fighting is over."


Source: AFP

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