Syria may be taking steps to get rid of its chemical weapons, but the civil war, which has claimed more than 120,000 lives, is hardly over.
The fighting between President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and the rebels continues, even in the streets of the capital, Damascus, where whole neighborhoods have been destroyed.
The BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet joined Here & Now’s Robin Young from Damascus. Doucet tweeted several photos this week (see slideshow above), and described sections of the capital as a “wasteland.”
“You can go to neighborhoods that look like earthquake zones where not a single building, house or a shop has been left without gaping holes, pockmarked with bullet holes, completely blackened, roofs torn off and not a single person to be found,” Doucet said. “And then you walk to the next neighborhood and its lively and bustling and people — with difficulty, it has to be said — but they are still going about their daily lives.”
Doucet says Damascus was previously somewhat shielded from the devastation that other towns have faced during the war, but she says, “even here there is growing hardship and growing devastation.”
Part of the reason for Damascus’ new vulnerability is that rebel fighters either live in neighborhoods in Damascus, or have captured control of them.
“The government has intensified attacks against those areas, both with the bombardments that we hear night and day here, but also they are resorting to new tactics,” Doucet said. “It’s called — and it’s a terrible, terrible slogan — it’s called surrender or starve …. They’re trying to starve the rebel fighters into giving up or leaving that neighborhood. But what happens, of course, is that civilians pay the heaviest of prices.”
Doucet describes the situation in Moadamiyeh, a suburb of Damascus, that had been under siege since March as particularly exemplary of the new tactic. It was only on Oct. 26 that the residents were allowed to leave during a temporary ceasefire.
“Several women, exhausted, collapsing in tears, said to us, ‘We haven’t seen a piece of bread in months, for nine months. We’ve been eating grass and leaves,’” Doucet said.
However, rebels use the same surrender or starve tactic to force government held areas into submission.
“Sadly there are no angels in this war,” Doucet said. “Everyone in this deepening war is using whatever they can to get more advantage on the battlefield.”
- Lyse Doucet, chief international correspondent for the BBC, reporting from Syria. She tweets @bbclysedoucet.