THE JEBEL AL-ZAWIYA HILLS, Syria (AP) - Like countless other Syrians fleeing their country's civil war, Sami was eager to escape the bombs and artillery shells falling on his village. But instead of taking his family to another country, he simply brought them underground.
For the past seven months, the family has lived in a chamber cut into the rock of the Jebel al-Zawiya hills, its walls etched with arabesques and alcoves.
Sami, a 32-year-old stonecutter, believes that his new home is a Roman shrine. Its design in fact suggests it may be a tomb.
Across northern Syria, rebels, soldiers and civilians are making use of the country's wealth of ancient and medieval remains for protection. The structures are built of thick stone that has already withstood the ravages of centuries. They are often located in strategic spots overlooking towns and roads.
Sami, who like many Syrians was reluctant to give his full name for security reasons, says cave life is hard. The worst part isn't the lack of electricity or running water. It's the smoke from the indoor fires.
A defected Syrian policeman, Adnan al-Hamod, 33, lights a kerosene lamp inside an underground shelter he made using a jackhammer to protect his family from Syrian government forces shelling and airstrikes, at Jirjanaz village, in Idlib province, Syria, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013. Across northern Syria, rebels, soldiers, and civilians are making use of the country's wealth of ancient and medieval antiquities to protect themselves from Syria's two-year-old war. They are built of thick stone that has already withstood the centuries, and are often located in strategic locations overlooking towns and roads. AP / Hussein Malla