Has the world become numb to the utter brutality in Syria?

At least 50 people were mercilessly killed when Russia and the Assad regime bombarded several hospitals – including a Doctors Without Borders (MSF)-supported facility – in Syria this week. Schools being used as shelters were also targeted. MSF officials indicated the attack on their hospital in Maarat al-Numan, Idlib province, appeared deliberate, with four missiles hitting the site within just minutes of each other. Meanwhile, a women and children’s hospital in Azaz, was targeted in a brutal ballistic missile attack. According to the Human Rights Watch (HRW), a total of seven hospitals and two schools in Syria bore the brunt of the attack on 15 February alone.

The Russian military and the Assad regime carried out these criminal attacks only days before a “cessation of hostilities” was slated to take place – a so far meaningless agreement brokered by Washington DC and Moscow officials.

Five years since the beginning of the conflict, the horrors inflicted on the Syrian people are now intensifying, with Russia and Bashar al-Assad’s disgraced regime continuing to massacre with impunity. This week underscored Moscow’s latest strategy, which appears to be conning the U.S. and other involved actors into assessing it is interested in halting the bloodshed in Syria while it worsens its attack on Syrian civilians on the ground.

The number of attacks that intentionally hit sites providing critical care this week is staggering. Five years on, it seems the world is at serious risk of becoming numb to the utter brutality in Syria.

Attack aftermath

Activists circulated one especially haunting photograph on twitter after an attack in Azaz: A colourful blanket wraps a badly mangled woman and her dead baby, which was still attached by the umbilical cord to her own corpse.

Another photo shows two toddlers, one in a red and white striped onesie and another in a green sweater, laying lifeless and covered in dust. “Goodbye cruel world,” wrote @RevolutionSyria. The targeting of hospitals – an Assad regime strategy being upheld by Russia – serves a broader purpose than just obliterating health care temporarily.

As attacks continue to target civilians and those attempting to provide life-saving care, it is worth asking how large scale of a massacre would have to be committed to trigger intervention on behalf of Syrian civilians

Brooklyn Middleton

During an interview with PBS Newshour, New York Times Beirut bureau chief Anne Barnard explained why so many medical facilities and schools are being intentionally targeted. “There may be a strategy of trying to depopulate areas...that are not likely to come back into the government fold,” she noted. Such deliberate planning for the future further highlight Assad’s commitment to maintaining his grip on power. Amid the horrific attacks in recent days, the United Nations was reportedly able to gain access to at least five besieged areas, delivering critical aid to approximately 82,000 people.

Meanwhile, U.N. officials have indicated that plans for humanitarian aid drops appear to be progressing toward implementation. Such developments are indeed positive but unless the Assad regime has agreed to stop using siege and starvation as means of warfare – including in Aleppo – the suffering is likely to continue in the long-term.

As attacks continue to target civilians and those attempting to provide life-saving care, it is worth asking how large scale of a massacre would have to be committed by the Assad regime, Russia or any other nefarious actor, to trigger intervention on behalf of Syrian civilians. The longer this bloody conflict continues, the more likely we are to have an answer.

Brooklyn Middleton is an American Political and Security Risk Analyst currently based in New York City. She has previously written about U.S. President Obama's policy in Syria as well as Bashar al-Assad's continued crimes against his own people. She recently finished her MA thesis on Ayatollah Khomeini’s influence on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group, completing her Master's degree in Middle Eastern Studies. You can follow her on Twitter here: @BklynMiddleton.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:46 - GMT 06:46
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