Monday, 31 December 2012 21:25
ALEPPO PROVINCE: At a converted warehouse in the midst of a block of residential homes in a northern Syrian town, men are hard at work at giant lathes, shavings of metal gathering around them.
Sacks of potassium nitrate and sugar lie nearby.
In a neat row against the wall is the finished product, homemade mortars. Syrian rebels say they have been forced to make them because their calls for heavy weapons and ammunition to fight President Bashar al-Assad have gone unanswered.
"No one's giving us any support. So we're working on our own to strike Bashar," said a bearded man spinning the metal to create the warhead.
Using the Internet, the workshop of about seven men work together to try and perfect the crude weapons. For explosives, they pick out TNT from unexploded rockets that Assad's forces have fired towards them and repackage them into their own weapons. Each gave different estimates of the mortars' range.
"We're volunteers, we were workers, we were never soldiers. They're locally made. They don't have the strength of the regime's rockets, but they are having good effects," said Abu Mohammed, who said the mortars created a 3-1/2 metre crater.
Another worker said the mortars, which take about a day to make, could reach a distance of 6 km (almost 4 miles).
Although the rebels, who are mostly Sunni Muslim fighters, have made big gains in the northern and eastern parts of Syria in the 21-month conflict, they are outgunned by Assad's forces.
Some rebel groups are receiving supplies from Gulf states, and Western countries say they are giving non-lethal aid. But many rebels say they have not received anything.
Colonel Abdel-Jabbar Oqaidi, who heads the rebels' military council in Aleppo province, told Reuters last week that his forces are fighting without any help from the Western and Arab governments which want Assad removed from power.
"We aren't able to get any weapons from abroad. We have nothing except for the rifle to fight with," said another man at the workshop.
Center>Copyright Reuters, 2012