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tonight on a special edition of "nightline." prayers for peace. from a land steeped in biblical history, now ravaged by heartbreaking conflict. searing firsthand video diaries. people from both sides of the lines in syria put themselves at risk to tell their story. a young schoolteacher, a phone engineer, a mother whose child has been taken hostage, all caught in the crossfire. and an unforgettable look through the eyes of a child as a 13-year-old schoolboy in a city under siege krob ankles his life. >> this special edition of "nightline" will be back in 60 seconds. cial
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>> this is a special edition of "nightline," caught in the crossfire. >> good evening. i'm juju chang. and tonight, in this season of peace, we have an extraordinary report from syria. a country steeped in biblical history but racked by heartbreaking conflict. for days now the ancient city of aleppo has been under devastating bombardment, the latest chapter in a war entering its third year now. for the last six months abc news has had ordinary syrians filming their stories from inside the conflict zone, often risking their own lives to do so. now nbc's chief foreign correspondent terry moran brings those reports from people on both sides "caught in the crossfire."
>> reporter: 24-year-old abu yussuf is caught in the crossfire. >> translator: now i'm surrounded by regime forces. there are daily clashes and lots of bombs. >> reporter: and he's filming himself. this is what young men in war really look like. >> translator: they are shooting at everyone, even children. >> reporter: 13-year-old abdulla singing here at a rally uses his camera to film what no child should ever see. >> translator: every day, every day we have to have snipers. oh my god, did you hear that? he shot at us. >> reporter: to protect this young boy's identity, we are not
showing his face. >> translator: this is the blood of someone that died here. >> i'm not afraid of death. >> also documenting the carnage, a syrian photographer. >> letting the whole world see what's going on is the same as fighting at the front line. >> reporter: these three anti-government activists live in the opposition stronghold of aleppo where some of the fiercest street fighting of the war has taken place. regime forces have continually assaulted this city and opposition fighters have fought back. block by block, street by street, even building by building. the people who live here never know where the battle lines are being drawn. barely a teenager, abdulla handles the camera we gave him like a pro, documenting daily life from a four-foot perspective.
>> translator: now we're going to speak to the heroes of the tree syrian army. how are you, my brother? what's the news from the front? >> reporter: the fight against the regime fills most of his frame. his idea of fun, playing a protester in his community children's play who gets shot. but one day in august, abdulla confronts a scene so real, bite make even the most hardened journalist flinch. the aftermath of a bombing on a mosque in his neighborhood. >> translator: there's been a bombing in the shopping district. they're trying to destroy the economy. >> reporter: abdulla's lens
follows the bloody victims as they stream by. even at the most gruesome sight, he follows. >> translator: where was the rocket dropped? who dropped it? >> reporter: the only time abdullah's camera wavers is when the unimaginable happens. another bomb explodes just blocks away. but then, camera rolling, the 13-year-old runs towards the smoke. >> translator: a rocket. >> reporter: his voice the only thing revealing his youth. there are not many women on the front lines of this war.
once answer english teacher, nuur now risks her life to teach the world about the horror she sees every day. >> you saw a man die five minutes ago. >> yes. >> do you worry that could happen to you? >> you're not thinking. this is something i have to do. i mean, so many people, so many girls died in the kitchen. and we have mortar shells or shrapnel coming through the window, drop dead, so what's the point? why should i die in sleep? >> we have had enough from not being able to say how we feel and now we can. we're going to build this whole country again from scratch, from zero. >> translator: this is a rally. people want to bring down the regime. >> reporter: abu yusuf, with the
camera we gave him in tow, records his work as an activist and aid worker. >> they have so many needs and they can use anything. >> reporter: but this is aleppo. even while taking meals to the needy, he carries a gun. >>. >> translator: this is the market. it's so crowded here. >> reporter: a crowded market is the perfect potential shooting gallery for a sniper. used by both sides, snipers are hidden. they can strike anywhere at any time. all they need is a window and a gun. >> translator: snipers are up there 24/7. at any moment we could lose someone. >> reporter: from his apartment window, abu films the consequences. >> translator: that is the guy who rescued the two kids shot earlier and took them to the ambulance. >> reporter: violence like this happens so often, no one in the crowd takes notice of the bloodied man.
>> translator: there's a sniper upstairs. >> reporter: and instead of cops and robbers, children in aleppo play a game of sniper. >> translator: give me the gun. i will shoot someone, everyone. >> reporter: but just weeks later, after filming these boys, abu yusuf himself became the victim of a real sniper. >> i hope to wake up and everything will be fine. and i'll go back to school and teach. there's no school that is safe enough. >> reporter: with most of the schools destroyed or closed, abdulla finds kids on the street with nowhere to go and nothing to do. >> translator: why are you playing? are you bored? >> translator: we're bored, there's no school. >> translator: why are there no schools? >> translator: the too muchers have left. nothing's left anymore. >> translator: there will be no school until bashar falls.
>> reporter: abdulla channels his frustration by writing songs for the opposition. >> translator: i lead protest songs at rallies in my neighborhood. i prepared these songs for rallies. it's made me a target. this song is called "step down, bashar." and this is a list of songs that i will sing on friday. >> reporter: this has made him a target of the regime. >> translator: there were times when the secret police stopped me. another time they detained me. my whole family, even the girls, used to go out and demonstrate to topple bashar, to topple the secret police, and to topple injustice. thank you for listening. >> reporter: and when we come
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welcome back. as we've seen, the syrian rebels are fighting a brutal dictatorship. but three years into the war, their ranks have been infiltrated by extremists loyal to al qaeda. who human rights groups say are just as ruthless as the government they fight. and so we turn now to stories sent us by syrians inside
government-held territory caught in the crossfire in the mountains above the city of latakia. >> reporter: as the final note to the call to prayer that marks each new day echoed through the mountain villages of the pro government region of latakia, extremist opposition fighters were secretly advancing. funded by al qaeda-linked groups based outside syria, it was a coordinated attack on civilians. >> translator: sunday morning, august 4, the world was shaken awake. >> reporter: first came the rockets. >> the terrorists, they started firing, shelling. gunshots rained down on the village. >> reporter: then the snipers
>> reporter: then the snipers. proudly posted on youtube, these difficult images were filmed by the jihadist fighters themselves. human rights watch would condemn what they did here as crimes against humanity. >> translator: everyone rushed to protect their wives and their children. >> translator: my husband yelled, "close the door and hide." i said, "i swear to god i won't go without you." >> reporter: facing little resistance, they quickly owned the streets and attacked with abandon. a few of the villagers were armed but they were outnumbered and outgunned. >> translator: i have a gun. but when the bullets run out, it's just a stick. >> translator: my husband saw them coming. he pointed at them. they shot him. after they killed them,they mutilated them. they cut them with a knife from here to here. they filmed it on the cell phone. is there anything more evil than what they did to us?
>> translator: they blocked the street off so nobody could pass. right when i stopped, i saw people in front of me being killed. i got everybody out of the car. that was when my baby son was shot in the head. >> translator: my husband -- we couldn't carry him, we couldn't move him, me and my daughters. they dragged me along like a child who couldn't walk. >> translator: my son is 2 years old. he was bleeding in my arms. what could a child have possibly done to deserve to die? >> reporter: but at the end of that one day, the jihadist fighters had complete control. it was a systematic slaughter. the men they executed on the spot. the women and children were rounded up and taken away. anyone left alive and uncaptured were fleeing into the woods.
>> translator: we were being fired at. i swear we were crawling, me and my daughters. barefoot and half naked. >> reporter: the next morning the army forces launched a counteroffensive. it took 13 days to take back the villages. the horrors continued. when the survivors returned, their homes were desecrated and they found close to 200 dead. many of the bodies discarded, ften mutilated and burned. bashar's son did live. his own son was wounded and both are left with permanent reminders of the vicious attack. >> translator: we did not bury one, two, or three. there are mass graves and there are still people missing. we don't know if they are alive or dead. >> translator: is there anything more evil, more hateful? my daughter and i are suffering.
>> reporter: so many families in this conflict don't know what has happened to their loved ones. are they dead or have they been captured? becoming one of the thousands of people who have disappeared leaving their families in an agonizing no-an's land like this one. >> translator: i always call. sometimes they answer and hang up. sometimes they don't answer at all. >> reporter: abu is desperate to reach his son, last seen here in an image no family wants to see. posted by his captors on youtube, the video shows 18-year-old amjaf kaluf being seized by rebel forces, joining the raimpgs of thousands of young men who have disappeared on both sides of this conflict. >> translator: he said, i am going to go fight. we begged him not to. >> reporter: according to them, he only recently joined a pro-regime militia group. >> translator: he's a teenager. you give them a gun and they feel all-powerful. >> reporter: an uncle risks reaching across the battle lines
to a man who was once a friend, seeking any help from the opposition side. >> translator: you are my brother with every meaning of the word. if you can help us with this, a favor of a lifetime. >> reporter: but for the family, it is hard to hold out hope. >> translator: i'm afraid that there's no negotiating with them. >> reporter: in recent days the family has been torn between demands from his alleged captors for money, devastating news that he has been killed. like so many families of the disappeared, they have no idea what to believe. they, too, are caught in the crossfire. like our 13-year-old abdullah who has had to go into hiding as more extreme islamic factions, which his family doesn't support, have taken over the opposition movement. >> translator: there is no one helping the people of syria, the people of aleppo, the people in my neighborhood. every day we have to hide from the snipers and the bombs.
>> reporter: and abu, who shot by a sniper had recovered enough recently to revisit the scene of his attack. >> translator: there is only that wall between me and the regime army. >> reporter: and nuur, who was also hurt in the conflict but continues to share scenes of the war with the world. >> it's a lost case on both sides. it's bad what happened to syria here. but it's not going to end soon.
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>> reporter: this month mark asths a macabre milestone. 1,000 bloody days since the civil war began. that's more than 100 deaths for every day of the world. the assad regime has stockpiled some 2.2 million pounds of chemical weapons which are now being removed. but not before they were used on civilians at least five times. but this is no longer syria's war alone. as many as 11,000 foreign fighters have flooded the country with extremist ideology. 2.3 million syrians have fled the country. nearly 10% of the entire population. inside syria, 3,000 schools have been damaged. leaving 2.2 million children with nowhere to learn. this biblical land is home to some of the most ancient structures on earth. yet the hallmarks of culture that took 5,000 years to build have all been destroyed in less than three. in this cradle