(Part of The Darkness Visible series)
(Wounded Boy in Syria Seeks Comfort... Protection)
It has been said many times that war is a kind of hell on Earth. In Syria the flames of Sheol lick the living as the torment of life in perpetual war seems far more contemptuous than that of death itself. This is a living death that knows not the religious affiliation nor political views of its victims. It does not target one over the other. This death is a tormentor without conscience. It attacks without mercy. It afflicts without pity.
Under Assad the war has dragged on as new weapons make their way onto the battlefield. There is now evidence that the Syrian army has been using "cluster bombs" against its own people. These ammunition violates the laws that govern war amongst civilized nations. They are used to inundate an area and overwhelm an enemy. More importantly, they can't be targeted at one building or a small tactical area. They scatter to the wind and hit whomever happens to be near by. This is why they are so devastating when used in neighborhoods and small towns and villages.
(Cluster Bombs Found in Assad's Arsenal)
In Syria these cluster bombs appear to be used just before the appearance of Shabiha (thugs who are loyal to Assad for a price). Much like the Sudanese style of war, Assad is softening up the targets before allowing his Shabiha to enter in and kill whoever is left. In Darfur it is the Janjaweed who ride in and finish off the survivors. In Syria the Shabiha fulfill this cowardly act.
(FSA Street Fighting Casualty)
In other attacks the cluster bombs have been targeted at schools and hospitals where Assad imagines the Free Syrian Army may be operating. In many cases the schools are occupied by refugees who have fled their homes in bombed out neighborhoods. It is in these schools that the Free Syrian Army often offer medical attention to the victims of Assad's indiscriminate campaign of bomb first and ask questions later.
Where the attacks fail Assad does not back down or deploy aid to the area. Instead the people he says he represents are left without power or water as winter approaches. No medicine or food is allowed to enter areas where Assad's forces are engaged. In this aspect Assad asserts that all those in his gun sights are guilty. Instead of targeting simply the rebels, Assad puts women and children under the daily anguish of siege warfare.
(FSA Rebel Helping Woman Through "Sniper Alley")
For those who find themselves alive after the first wave of aerial bombardment the fight to survive is simply beginning. Survivors of what happens next have reported that within minutes of the bombs dropping the artillery opens up. These heavy weapons are often stationed in neighboring villages or neighborhoods. They are kept hidden near homes, mosque, and refugee shelters so as to keep the Free Syrian Army from returning fire. This very act of "hugging" civilian targets is also forbidden by the Geneva Convention. It is considered a war crime.
When the target has been blasted by both the air and land those left alive are still struggling to remain so. In almost every case of Assad's blitz the barrage is followed by Syrian Army and Iranian snipers. These silent killers set up shop where their sights can be targeted down long open pathways. The result is that a street or becomes a "Sniper Alley". This was used by the Serbians in Bosnia to drive the death toll up as the Serbs killed off the "Muslim threat".
(The Most Common Victims of the Shabiha)
As the attack comes to its climax the Free Syrian Army braces for the arrival of the Shabiha. The Syrian Army will often give a short burst of artillery or send in Russian built helicopters to keep the target under control as the thugs ride in. These killers have often gone door to door looking for victims. They are said to be after the rebels alone and yet the Shabiha actions point to their real motivation.
Killing off entire families and specifically targeting children the Shabiha loot the homes of their victims and take anything they view as valuable. In doing so the Shabiha are showing the West that Assad's money is running out and instead of offering a set pay scale the Nero of Damascus is paying off his militia just as Bashar in the Sudan does. Like the Janjaweed, the Shabiha are extracting their pay from the very people Assad is attempting to repress.
The end result of the cluster bomb thus is that the original goal of Assad's war against the Sunni is achieved. The rebels are subjected to total war and the Sunni majority is subjugated by the Alawi Shia in power. It does not matter to Assad that the people he is killing are his own countrymen. It doesn't bother Assad's wife that almost a third of all the deaths in this war have been children (under the age of 18).
Both sides are becoming desperate.
(FSA Executing Surrendered Syrian Soldiers)
The Free Syrian Army has begun openly shooting Syrian soldiers who surrender or attempt to defect form Assad's ranks. In the past the Free Syrian Army had welcomed Syrian soldiers who wanted to leave Assad. Now, with the war approaching 2 long years, the FSA seems unwilling to accept surrender. What had begun as a war of annihilation against the people of Syria is now a war of attrition. Either Assad's forces will perish or leave Syria or the Free Syrian Army will be killed off entirely.
This is hell. No better word can describe it.