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Volunteers provide ambulance service in Aleppo, sometimes driving as far as Turkey

Published: Updated:

In Aleppo, a war zone by any definition, there are just five ambulances to respond to the wounded, according to reports from inside Syria’s largest city.

Four are on the streets at any one time, racing to wherever the front lines might be on any particular day.

As the battles between fighters with the Free Syrian Army and the soldiers of President Bashar Assad's regime rage on, the injured are rushed to the limited medical resources still operational.

Sometimes they live and sometimes they die - but often they need specialist treatment not available in the battered city.

In video filmed recently, we are shown a time when the fifth ambulance is deployed, driven on this day by Abu Bakr on an emergency transfer across the border to Turkey in what he describes as a mission more dangerous than his days as a sniper with the rebel forces.

The ambulances are kept in a secret base within Aleppo, hidden from regime soldiers who fire at them and try to kill the drivers.

Baker has driven an ambulance for seven months. Before he became a sniper, he was a taxi driver in the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Bakr’s ambulance is an emergency vehicle in name only. There are no flashing lights or a siren, no medical equipment - just a stretcher in the back and a bench seat for relatives of the injured.

“This is my car,” Bakr says. “We don’t have the money to pay (for) gas, to pay petrol. We take if from family. They pay (for the) gas.”

He says his ambulance is a target and shows shrapnel damage to the passenger side door.

Today’s victim is a man with a severe head injury. His family said he was wounded by shrapnel from a mortar bomb. He is bandaged and still losing blood.

His family carries him to the back of the ambulance for the wild ride to the border.

With no siren or emergency lights, Bakr is reduced to keeping his hand on the horn - and driving as fast as he can in an attempt to avoid being shot at.

He says while many people want to join the FSA and fight, nobody wants to drive an ambulance.

Along the way, he is forced to pull over for fuel - petrol is funneled into a can from a barrel at the side of the road and then poured into the ambulance's tank.

Money is handed over the roadside vendor by relatives in the back - some 3,500 Syrian pounds (close to 50 US dollars) - before the risky journey continues.

Ambulance drivers do not charge anything for making the trip and there is no money to maintain the vehicles.

On a straight road, the ambulance can reach around 140 kilometers per hour (almost 87 miles per hour) and Bakr tries to coax every bit of speed from it as he weaves around cars and pedestrians. His hand remains firmly on the horn.

Soon, the journey is over and after a couple of questions, the injured man is carried across the border. Bakr helps.

After cleaning the blood from the back of the ambulance, he will return to the secret base to await the next victim and another high speed and dangerous drive to the border.