In the bed next to Ghassan lies Nabhan. Nabhan grins and makes a victory sign for the camera. Nabhan was in the same regular army unit as Ghassan and they defected together. In Homs they hooked up with the nascent FSA and were given the job of protecting the protests.
“But the Shabiha and the soldiers attacked us,” explains Ghassan. “We were outnumbered.” In the firefight that followed Ghassan was shot in the leg while Nabhan took a bullet through the penis.
“They brought us over the border on the back of motorcycles,” says Nabhan through a cloud of cigarette smoke. Everyone in earshot looks wide eyed at the tube that protrudes from his groin and disappears under the bed.
“He is addicted to morphine,” says his doctor.
“Yes,” I say. “I imagine he is.”
There are around twenty wounded fighters being treated on the ward. The other patients are civilians, suffering from bullet, shrapnel and shell wounds picked up in the border towns or while trying to flee to Lebanon. As the guerrillas lie in their beds chain smoking, a chattering four year old called Omran drags a patched up leg from room to room picking up cuddles and kisses as he goes.
Omran’s mother explains that he was shot by the Syrian Army as they crossed the border. She had tried to enter Lebanon legally but the Syrians wouldn’t let her leave without a document from the boy’s father and she was scared to tell them he had been killed in the uprising.
“He is the youngest Mondas,” says Ghassan. The littlest spy. Dr Majd hoists the boy onto a bed and removes Omran’s dressing. The bottom half of Omran’s leg has been extensively rebuilt by Lebanese surgeons in the hospital up the road and thick scars criss-cross his tiny limb. A dark, vicious rivet marks the bullet’s entry point. As the doctor applies cream, Omran studies the ceiling, quiet for the first time.
“This man,” explains Dr Mu’tazz, turning to a lad of no more than 22. “He is a fighter. He took bullets here, and here… and here, and here…oh and here.”
A toothless guerrilla holds up a fat white mit for a photograph and tells me he had his thumb shot off.
In the corridors, FSA fighters hobble up on crutches and ask where I am from. “Ah England,” they say. “Tony Blair.”
“Syria,” I respond. “Bashar al Assad.” They take the point and we laugh and they give me cigarettes and we sit on the beds and smoke them with the doctors. Everyone here has a story. Mamoud was in Homs and was shot by a helicopter, he makes a whirring motion with his hand followed by triggers. His leg is swathed in a bulky casing, but no one seems to have told him to stay in bed…or lay off the Gitanes. Rafiq rolls up a sleeve to reveal the entry point of the bullet that snapped his wrist. “Soon I go and shoot again,” he says grinning. More triggers. “Kalashnikov,” he says.