In a war zone such as Syria, photojournalist Seamus Murphy knows that a helicopter hovering over a hospital is a bad sign.
The Russian-made Mi-8 launches two rockets into the building in Tall Rifat near Aleppo. Murphy and his team had left the hospital minutes before the attack, but the panic that ensues on the street is not lost on him.
After working with a fixer in Turkey, Murphy had traveled across the border into Syria. Hosted by locals and rebels, he recently spent three days in the country.
"The whole time inside there is a base level of tension, which only increases when the situation worsens or news comes of a setback to the plan," Murphy said.
This trip, his second this year, earned him useful contacts and a better understanding of the situation in the war-torn country, he said.
“We learned a lot from this trip into Syria, short as it was,” he added. “The revolution felt far more unified and organized this time.”
Due to constant traveling, Murphy kept his gear to a minimum.
He only brought his camera and some memory cards on his first visit. The second time around, he also brought his computer. But not knowing what was being traced, he waited to return to Turkey to transmit images.
Murphy said he believes the situation in Syria will worsen before it gets better. With Bashar al-Assad’s regime “killing its citizens with impunity,” he likens it to the conflict in Bosnia.
While the rebels may be stronger than before, he said “the Syrian army have tanks, helicopter gunships and a rampaging militia – the shabiha – who have a history of slitting women’s and children’s throats after the army has attacked a place.”
The Syrian regime has blamed terrorists for the violence. Opposition groups say the violence began when a government crackdown on peaceful protesters generated a nationwide uprising last year.
The situation in Syria is unlike any other conflict Murphy has covered, he said. “One thing that is unique for a story of this magnitude and scale is the lack of reporting on the ground by Western press.”
(CNN cannot confirm specific reports of violence in Syria because the government has restricted access to the country by international journalists.)
Murphy said he hopes his images – such as the one of a hole in the wall of a hospital room – will “make people think.”
It’s not likely al-Assad’s regime will ever return to the power it once had, Murphy said. “So it’s now a question of limiting the suffering and casualties in the process of what evolves,” he said.
- Elizabeth I. Johnson, CNN