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02/07/2013

Syria's civil war: What a stalemate looks like

Syrianwomen
A Syrian woman stands amid the ruins of her house which was destroyed in an airstrike by government warplanes a few days earlier, killing 11 members of her family, in the neighbourhood of Ansari, Aleppo, Syria. (AP Photo/Abdullah al-Yassin)

Neither side in Syria’s civil war is winning or losing. Rebel fighters captured several Damascus neighbourhoods for a few days but on Wednesday a government counter-offensive took them back, The Associated Press reported. 

And so the pattern goes. 

Meanwhile, the head of the opposition alliance, Moaz al Khatib today demanded on the BBC Arabic service that the regime release all female prisoners by Sunday or he would withdraw his offer of talks. It does not mean very much. President Bashar Assad has ignored him in the past.

So the stalemate continues. 

But here is what a stalemate in a civil war looks like, according to Dr. Anas al Kassem, a Syrian doctor I spoke to recently who travels regularly to Aleppo with colleagues from European countries to treat the wounded.

The demonstrations on the streets have long vanished and it is a mechanized war of attrition with the regime using heavy artillery in an all out assault against its people, he told me. 

The shift is reflected in the kinds of injuries he sees: blast injuries from tanks, rockets fired directly at civilians or houses crushed by bombs dropped from fighter jets. 

“When I go to Syria I say I dream about seeing a simple gunshot wound,” he said. “But we see men who lose an abdomen wall or someone who has a big hole in his chest because of tank fire.  As surgeons, from four or five countries like Belgium, France, Germany, we don’t know what to do. We are puzzled about how to treat these injuries. The headlines might say 200 dead today, but there are many more wounded and it is not easy to treat them. I estimate there are 1,000 people wounded across Syria every day.”

My colleague Paul Watson is in Syria. Read his harrowing report on how children in Aleppo are being targetted here. 

Hamida Ghafour is a foreign affairs reporter at The Star. She has lived and worked in the Middle East and Asia for more than 10 years and is the author of a book on Afghanistan. Follow her on Twitter @HamidaGhafour

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