Syria. It's a stalemate that is anything but stale: Mired in bloodshed and appalling violence, shifting and evolving daily, yet dragging on seemingly without end.
Countless lives are lost and many more are interrupted. The conflict has resulted in what the UN High Commissioner for Refugees recently described as a "disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history."
It is obvious that war is the cause, but a haunting new report from Roy Gutman and Paul Raymond offers greater insight into why. It documents the Syrian government strategy of decimating areas sympathetic to the opposition with heavy weapons, followed by a brutal "cleansing" by ground forces.
The story looks at this summer's government assault against Ariha, a small rebel-held town south of Idlib, The tragedy that unfolded here is described as a "case study in Syria’s hidden war." From the article:
To “cleanse” the town, government helicopters dumped dozens of “barrel bombs” – improvised explosive devices filled with shrapnel and varying in size from a large pipe to a garbage Dumpster – on houses and shops, multiple witnesses told McClatchy. Tanks and howitzers fired into the town, and the army also fired mortars, gravity bombs, vacuum bombs and cluster bombs.
Outgunned and low on ammunition, the rebels gave up. They and around 70,000 civilians fled to other towns and to Turkey, and that may have been the aim of the operation. The United Nations now estimates that 6.8 million Syrians have been displaced from their homes, and outside experts say the number may be as high as 10 million.
It's a disturbing report and absolutely worth a read. Here's the link: