26 Mar 2013

Syria’s civilian casualties – does either side care?

I am staring at it right now from my hotel bedroom, the impact zone, about 400 yards away across a mix typical of a city centre: a busy dual-carriageway, a museum, office blocks and the tree-lined avenues of the university campus.

Somebody decided this was a target. If they are Damascene, then they will know how crowded with students, street-food sellers and traffic this entire zone is. If they are Syrian, or from abroad, or even from Pluto, they will know this area is full of Syrians – civilian Syrians.

I personally saw the fins of three mortars, two of them dug from the tarmac by soldiers intent on removing the evidence that the city centre of their capital  is now a free-fire zone for the rebels trying to reshape Syria by force.

There are large pools of blood and the usual red footprints you get at these situations where people helped broken and shattered and bleeding people to waiting cars, vans, whatever, before the ambulances would be on the scene – and they are pretty fast around here.

In the past three days, incoming mortars have hit private flats, a church, a city centre park, the Sheraton Hotel, Syrian TV, the SANA news agency and its next door neighbour, the law faculty of the University of Damascus.

Civilian targets appear not to be off limits for both pro and anti-government fighters in Damascus. This picture shows a mortar attack on a building in the Zamalka neighbourhood last month.

The government’s Syrian Arab Army routinely pulverizes civilian areas from where the rebel groups fight, and kills large numbers of civilians in so doing.

It is hard to build any other case than that the rebel tactic here is pure terror and demoralisation. If they think they are going after military targets, then the above list from the past three days can only prove they are lethally incompetent.

Perhaps it is simply giving the government a taste of its own medicine.

Watch more in our week of special reports on Syria’s Descent

More likely, in a war in which a suicide bomber will enter and detonate worshippers in a mosque; where civilian massacres are a feature of war-fighting; where a young boy cuts off the head of a captured army officer – yes, more likely by far in this war is that neither side gives a damn about killing civilians any more.

And knowingly setting out to kill them at that. They will both complain at this. Supporters and apologists of both sides will be furious of course.

I tell them all the facts on the ground – the civilian blood, and the human gore, on the ground –¬† say different.

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