Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Syria Massacres Show Steady Killing Strategy

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Syria Massacres Show Steady Killing Strategy

Article excerpt

DARAYA, Syria -- As he hid from soldiers in a field next to his neighborhood, a young man watched as a cat wandered down a street. Suddenly, it was shot dead. That's when Zuhair noticed the sniper on a nearby roof.

But a father and son walking along the street didn't see the gunman, Zuhair said. The sniper lowered his head and peered through his scope.

He shot the boy first. As the man tried to grab his son, who looked to be about 10, he was shot as well.

The two are among a reported 700 victims of snipers, shelling and summary executions, most of them men, since forces loyal to President Bashar Assad stormed the Damascus suburb of Daraya in late August, one in a growing list of Syrian towns and villages that briefly enter the world's spotlight, only to be replaced by another one when a new mass killing is committed.

Unlike a massacre by government forces three decades earlier in the city of Hama, which left more than 20,000 dead in just three weeks and still haunts the country, the reported atrocities have been spread over the last 17 months of bloodshed in Syria. That has led some to call the government campaign a kind of slow-motion Hama.

Late last year, as the government siege of the city of Homs was under way, activists began tweeting: "Homs 2011 equals Hama 1982, but slowly, slowly." As the conflict becomes more bloody, the same can be said for the entire country.

"They killed them in one sweep [in Hama]; with us, it's in stages," said Um Hussam, a mother of five who runs a small convenience shop in an old neighborhood of Daraya. "We expected they would kill and terrorize people, but not to this ... level of barbarity."

After videos of children's bodies emerged in the wake of a massacre of 108 people in the town of Houla in May, there was brief international outcry, and several Western countries expelled their Syrian ambassadors and diplomats. …

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