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March 1, 2013
Syrians find makeshift homes in ancient structures

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.

(12 images)




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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
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Sobhi al-Hamod, 60, stands inside an underground shelter he made to protect his family from Syrian government forces shelling and airstrikes, at Jirjanaz village, in Idlib province, Syria, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013. AP / Hussein Malla
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A Syrian woman, leaves an underground shelter at Jirjanaz village, in Idlib province, Syria, Thursda,y Feb. 28, 2013. AP / Hussein Malla
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Sami, 32, steps into an underground Roman tomb used for shelter from Syrian government forces shelling and airstrikes, at Jabal al-Zaweya, in Idlib province, Syria, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013. AP / Hussein Malla
syria_hiding_05.jpg
Nihal, 9, looks at the entrance of an underground Roman tomb used as shelter from Syrian government forces shelling and airstrikes, at Jabal al-Zaweya, in Idlib province, Syria, Thursday Feb. 28, 2013. AP / Hussein Malla
syria_hiding_06.jpg
Nadia, 53, steps out of an underground Roman tomb used as shelter from Syrian government forces shelling and airstrikes, at Jabal al-Zaweya, in Idlib province, Syria, Thursday Feb. 28, 2013. AP / Hussein Malla
syria_hiding_07.jpg
A Syrian girl, leaves a cave used as shelter from Syrian government forces shelling and airstrikes, at Jabal al-Zaweya, in Idlib province, Syria, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013. AP / Hussein Malla
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A Free Syrian Army fighter, Abu Mohammed, speaks inside a cave used for shelter from Syrian governemnt forces shelling and airstrikes, at Jabal al-Zaweya, in Idlib province, Syria, Thursday Feb. 28, 2013. AP / Hussein Malla
syria_hiding_09.jpg
Sami, 32, center, speaks with his children at an underground Roman tomb which he uses with his family as shelter from Syrian government forces shelling and airstrikes, at Jabal al-Zaweya, in Idlib province, Syria, Thursday Feb. 28, 2013. AP / Hussein Malla
syria_hiding_10.jpg
Nadia, 53, makes bread on a wooden stove, at an underground Roman tomb which she uses as a shelter with her family from Syrian governemnt forces shelling and airstrikes, at Jabal al-Zaweya, in Idlib province, Syria, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013. AP / Hussein Malla
syria_hiding_11.jpg
In this photo taken Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013, ammunition vests are seen in front of a mosaic inside a 17th-century caravanserai, which presently serves as a headquarters for the Free Syrian Army, in Maaret al-Numan, Idlib province, Syria. AP / Hussein Malla
syria_hiding_12.jpg
In this photo taken Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013, fuel barrels are stored in front of Roman and Byzantine mosaics inside the 17th-century caravanserai, which presently serves as a headquarters for the Free Syrian Army, in Maaret al-Numan, Idlib province, Syria. AP / Hussein Malla

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