Nightly News   |  December 16, 2013

Syrians fight over a country in ruins

A conflict – seemingly without end – has driven millions of Syrians from their homes. Over the weekend there was a devastating attack in the city of Aleppo after barrel bombs were dropped from the sky – and the violence continued on Monday. NBC’s Keir Simmons reports from Damascus.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> now overseas to syria where winter is setting in and the freezing weather is adding to the suffering from the nearly 3-year-old civil war there, a convict so far without end which has driven millions of syrians from their homes. today an unprecedented appeal from the u.n. for six and a half billion dollars to help with this refugee crisis that grows worse and worse with every new attack. nbc's kier simmons is inside damascus tonight.

>> reporter: good evening, brian. tonight in damascus you can hear the sound of explosions. fighting continues around this city and across this country in a war that has claimed more than 100,000 lives according to the u.n. just this weekend, a devastating attack in the northern city of aleppo. carnage in syria 's largest city. amid smoke and burning cars, desperate attempts to rescue those buried by a massive barrel bomb like this one, dropped from the sky. children cling to parents, a badly injuried man is carried away. a boy trembles in shock. opposition groups say 26 children were among the dozens killed. the attacks continued today. barrels packed with nails and explosives dropped from government helicopters as seen in this cell phone video of an earlier attack. the death toll climbs on both sides of the war. just last week more than a hundred were killed when opposition fighters reportedly used civilians as human shields . we arrived in damascus at dusk. our journey from lebanon just over 50 miles took seven hours through snowy mountains and checkpoints. an estimated million terrified syrians made this journey in the other direction, fleeing a country that's been tearing itself apart for almost three years. in all, almost 9 million people, more than a third of syria 's entire population have fled their homes. those who get to camps like this one in lebanon now face a freezing winter in just tents. [ speaking in a foreign language ]

>> reporter: my husband is sick and the cold weather is hurting us, this woman says. we are becoming sick from the smell of the stove. in a u.n. center, mothers crowd around me. help me get to the west, one begs, holding her 9-month-old child. others who look to the west for help, syria 's more moderate opposition fighters are losing ground, battling not just president assad's force bus extremist rebels some link to al qaeda . america has withdrawn some aid fearing it will fall into the wrong hands. syrians are fighting over a country in ruins. as the world watches, so far helpless to stop it and families are caught in the middle with nowhere to go. tonight one u.n. official said even if the violence were to end tomorrow we would still have a major humanitarian crisis . and the violence is not going to end