After five years of a simmering conflict that has produced many horrors some degree of weariness is natural to set in. Our capacity for compassion is overloaded. We numb ourselves to suffering.
But in the past couple of days only the heartless have been able to withhold tears at the terrors that have befallen Aleppo.
Aleppo — this palimpsest whereupon 8 millenia of civilization are inscribed — has been ravaged more ruthlessly than Baghdad was ravaged by the Mongols in the 13th century. But the Mongols never had the terrifying firepower that the Syrian regime and its Russian masters have brought to bear on the city; they also lacked the kind of mercilessness with which Aleppo was starved and slaughtered by Hezbollah and the international horde of sectarian mercenaries assembled by Iran.
For the people of Aleppo this sustained nightmare has now reached a crescendo. The city has fallen. A slaughter is underway. The UN has confirmed that “pro-Assad forces, including the Iraqi Shia militia Harakat al-Nujaba, had carried out summary killings of at least 82 civilians, including 11 women and 13 children, in four different neighbourhoods of east Aleppo that had fallen under government control”.
But this is a nightmare from which there is no waking. Some civilians who accepted the regimes amnesty and tried to flee Aleppo were massacred. Male residents who made it out of the besieged zones have been forcibly conscripted. Women are fearful of surrendering to forces that have used rape systematically as a weapon of war. Everyone is fearful of a regime that has practiced torture on an industrial scale.
To trust the regime to honour its words is to gamble with ones own honour and forfeit ones life. The regime has already breached a ceasefire enacted yesterday.
Meanwhile, inside eastern Aleppo, a terrorized population awaits its fate, praying for a miracle but preparing for death — and hoping that it is sudden. Because without medical care, even small injuries can prove fatal. According to the Independent Commission of Inquiry into Syria “there has been deliberate and systematic targeting of hospitals and other medical facilities” by pro-regime forces, with “at least 20 hospitals and clinics” destroyed in eastern Aleppo. By October 7, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) had recorded “at least 23 attacks on eastern Aleppo’s eight remaining hospitals since the siege began in July”. Pro-regime forces have also actively and systematically targeted first responders using the criminal “double tap” policy. Reports have already emerged of people trapped under rubble with no one to rescue them.
Here, in this purgatory, it seems there is no why. Why this cruelty? Why this sadism? Why this torture of a population when Russia and the regime already enjoy military superiority?
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