Inside Syria’s Death Zone: Assad’s Regime Hunts People in Homs - News - International
The regime in Damascus is using snipers to hunt down its own people. Rebels on the ground in besieged Homs, the site of some of the most extreme brutality, say the international community is hesitating to help Syrians out of fear that it will trigger a civil war. But the threat is merely propaganda from ruler Bashar Assad, they claim.
When the haze dissipates in the late afternoon light, and when the last unfortunate souls hurry across the open space, running in a zigzag pattern, hunting season begins on Cairo Street. There is random shooting all day long at this spot, but from this moment on the shooting becomes targeted. A few people make it to the other side on this day, but one does not. He screams and falls to the ground as he is hit. He was carrying a loaf of bread, something that was no longer available on his side of Cairo Street.
Pedestrians are rarely targeted in the morning. But beginning in the afternoon and continuing throughout the night, the wide, straight street that separates the Khalidiya and Bayada neighborhoods becomes a death zone. That’s when they — the snipers working for Syrian intelligence, who are nothing more than death squads, and the Shabiha killers, known as “the ghosts,” mercenaries who are paid daily wages and often earn a little extra income by robbing their victims — shoot at anything that moves.
The map of Homs is a topography of terror these days. Entire sections of Syria’s third-largest city are besieged. Hundreds of thousands have become the hostages of a regime whose president, Bashar Assad, insisted with a chuckle in an interview with America’s ABC News, that only a madman would order his forces to shoot at his own people.
What began nine months ago as a peaceful protest against the dictatorship of the Assad dynasty has since become a campaign against the people by the regime — a regime that, for 41 years, was accustomed to using brutality to enforce submission. Since it realized that this brutality was no longer sufficient, it decided to use even more — and then even more when the resistance continued to grow. There are no negotiations. In the heavily guarded downtown section of Homs, where the regime feigns an eerie mood of normality for foreign visitors, it has put up signs that read: “The continuation of dialogue guarantees stability.”
On Monday, the regime officially yielded to demands by the Arab League, announcing that it would now allow independent observers into the country. But Assad had already promised an end to the violence months ago, and nothing changed. On Tuesday, his forces bombarded Homs with rockets.
Many cities in Syria have become combat zones, and now the uprising has even reached the suburbs of Damascus. But, in Homs, anywhere from five to 15 people die every day, most as the victims of snipers. The insurgents have counted more than 200 sniper positions in Homs, from which people are being shot arbitrarily and without warning — not because they are protesting, but merely because they are there.