AP Photos: Syria's war shatters a village economy

By KHALIL HAMRA | November 9, 2012 | 8:33 AM EST

In this Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012 photo, a Syrian man fills a plastic container with diesel fuel from a street vendor in the Syrian village of Atmeh, near the Turkish border with Syria. The civil war raging through Syria has battered much of the country's economy, making life harder for poor Syrians who struggled even before fighting broke out. Those struggles are clear even in places spared large scale destruction, such as Atmeh, which abuts Syria's northern border with Turkey, and other nearby villages.(AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

ATMEH, Syria (AP) — The civil war raging through Syria has battered much of the country's economy, making life harder for impoverished Syrians who struggled even before the fighting broke out.

The struggles are stark even in places that have been spared large-scale destruction. One such place is Atmeh, a village abutting Syria's northern border with Turkey.

For generations, Atmeh's farmers have lived off their olive harvests. But this year, they say the war has drastically limited their access to markets and cut in half the prices they can expect for their products.

Assuming they find buyers, the farmers say they would be lucky to sell a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of green olives — which used to go for a dollar — for just 50 cents. The fighting prevents them from marketing their products in most of Syria, and Turkish traders across the border say they can't import the olives anymore.

"At the moment we are lost," said farmer Mohammed Kadur Hassan, 63. "We don't know what to do with the extra (olive) oil."

The war has hit other sectors as well. Petrol products are scarce since President Bashar Assad's government stopped distributing them to areas controlled by rebels seeking to topple his regime.

This leaves locals at the mercy of traders who truck gas in from other regions at a substantial hike in prices.

Fighting for months in and around the northern city of Aleppo, Syria's main economic and commercial hub, has crippled commerce in the surrounding areas by making it difficult for merchants to buy goods for their stores.

A kilogram of sugar, which used to cost about 25 cents, now costs three to four times as much, residents say.

Few see a swift end to the war that has killed more than 36,000 people since March 2011, according to anti-regime activists.