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Exclusive: Sky Films Violence In Syrian City

Exclusive: Sky Films Violence In Syrian City

5:08pm 30th June 2011
(Updated 12:02pm 2nd July 2011)

Sky News has filmed violence during anti-government protests in Aleppo - the first to be filmed by foreign journalists in Syria in three months of unrest.

We were in our hotel when we received a text from an activist: "I heard that something is happening in Iron Gate."

A cab drove us to the Citadel, one of the world's oldest castles, which has stood sentinel for millennia as powerful civilizations crumbled in the streets below.

When we arrived in Aleppo we noticed baton-wielding police and security forces huddled in quietly watchful groups around the main square.

We bought a cold drink and watched from the shade of a cafe canopy.

After a few minutes, we decided to head back, uncertain whether the protest had already dissipated or the fog of underground protest had produced another false lead.

About 100 metres down the road, we noticed a skirmish and raised voices just in front of our taxi.

We went to investigate just as the roiling mass of punches and projectiles switched direction and headed towards us.

We ran into a hardware shop and filmed through the window with handheld devices.

As the only western media in town, surrounded by anger, frustration and suspicion, a larger camera was unthinkable.

The anti-government protestors appeared to be overwhelmingly outnumbered.

We were expecting to see students, but the 50 or so wielding makeshift banners denouncing President Bashar al Assad included a number of middle-aged men, who bore the brunt of the injuries.

One, who had blood streaming from his head, was carried to safety.

As we left, a shop owner lowering his shutter saw our cameraman filming and ran towards him screaming. His kick connected but Pete was unhurt.

The 'million man' march, which was promoted on Facebook, failed to reach those numbers, but it was a significant day for the protestors who believe the pace of reform promised by the leadership is too slow.

Like others around Syria, where there has been many a bloody end to demonstrations for the past four months, they are calling for nothing less than an end to the regime.

That is particularly brave here in a wealthy, commerce-driven city which is seen as a power base for Assad's leadership.

It must also be noticed that many people in this region - which is mostly middle-class - have an affection for the president but not necessarily those around him.

They fear the alternative - Islamic extremists like the Muslim Brotherhood which based its operations in the north west of the country in the 1970s and 80s, fighting the Baath regime of the current president's father.

Such extreme religious ideology is a concern for those with a European sensibility in this crossroads of civilizations, religions and ethnicities.

As we headed back to our hotel, we saw large groups of pro-government supporters gather waving ubiquitous banners.

A man handed out posters of the president, which many held to their chests.

Whether that was a true show of loyalty or a paper insurance policy to fend off the attention of Syria's secret police is difficult to assess.

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