Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Chaos and Killing in Syria: Photos of a Slow-Motion Civil War

More than a year ago, Arab Spring–inspired protests kicked off in the impoverished Syrian agricultural town of Dara‘a. The mini-uprising met a brutal response, one that few observers at the time could have anticipated would blow up into a far wider rebellion against President Bashar Assad and the entrenched, decades-long rule of his family. With Syrian authorities clamping down on journalistic access and freedoms, we saw glimpses of the unrest there for months only through grainy YouTube footage, images as uncertain and hard to corroborate as the events on the ground.
But a more than a year of violence — largely wrought by the Assad regime — has led to what is for all intents and purposes a civil war, one that has likely fissured the country along sectarian lines. The death toll, according to human-rights observers, has eclipsed 17,000 as of July 9, 2012. Forces loyal to the Assad regime continue their onslaught on opposition strongholds, making ancient medieval cities like Homs, Hama and recently Aleppo front-page news. Journalists have stolen across the border with the aid of rebel groups to document the shelling of civilians and the bloody unraveling of the Assad status quo. Some have paid the price for access with their lives. Diplomatic efforts at the U.N. to curb the killings have stalled amid a mess of geopolitics; few place much hope in a peace plan pushed by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and tacitly accepted by a Syrian regime that has lost nearly all its credibility. Separate efforts on the part of the so-called Friends of Syria will lead to the U.S. and like-minded allies further backing and supporting the rebel Free Syrian Army, aid that will only intensify a conflict that shows few signs of relenting. —Ishaan Tharoor
image: A Free Syrian Army fighter takes cover during clashes with Syrian Army in the Salaheddine neighbourhood of central Aleppo Aug. 7, 2012. 

image: A body of a boy, who was killed by a recent Syrian Air force air strike, is seen under rubble of a house in the village of Tel Rafat, north of Aleppo, Aug. 8, 2012.

A civilian boy is wheeled inside a building after being shot by a sniper in Salah Aldeen, Aleppo, Aug. 4, 2012.

Regime soldiers overtake a building at the end of street 15 in Salah Aldeen, Aleppo, Aug. 4, 2012.

Casualties mount in the basement of a makeshift field hospital from intense shelling on the first day of a Syrian government military offensive against rebels of the Free Syrian Army in the rebel held district of Salahudin in Aleppo, July 28, 2012.

A Syrian boy stand in the rubble of a destroyed police station at the border town of Azaz, north of Aleppo, July 29, 2012. The U.N. said 200,000 Syrians have fled the embattled city of Aleppo since intense clashes between regime forces and rebels began 10 days ago.

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