A Syrian government airstrike Sunday killed a crowd of civilians at a market in the city of Douma, a Damascus suburb. The widely-reported count of victims had reached nearly 100 by Monday, with another 200 injured.
The attack involved the infamously destructive and primitive “barrel bombs” that have become a signature tactic of the regime. Dropped from an airplane, they explode across a target with shrapnel, causing indiscriminate damage to a wide area. (RELATED: Syria’s Assad Still Denies Killing Syrians, Says He Has ‘Public Support’)
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based NGO, called the incident “one of the bloodiest attacks of the four-year war.”
According to the Syrian government, the attack was part of a campaign against the rebel groups that control the city. The BBC notes that groups including the Islamist militia Jaysh al-Islam have been firing rockets into Damascus, which is just 7 miles away.
Critics of the regime say that by targeting civilians rather than militant groups, it has made the Syrian people themselves pay the highest price in a war which has forced nearly 10 million from their homes.
President Bashar Assad may have also turned a blind eye to the most radical fighters, including Islamic State, to cultivate fears that the only alternatives to his government are jihadis. (RELATED: Evil Faces Evil As ISIS Uncovers Assad’s Torture Prison)
Since Assad’s attacks on civilians have continued, the administration of President Barack Obama has quietly ignored its previous statements urging Assad’s removal from power.
A McClatchy report last week quoted current and former officials who admitted that despite the “magic words” of 2011, regime change in Syria has never been a goal for Obama. According to former special adviser Frederic Hof, calling for Assad to step down was part of a “rush to get the president on ‘the right side of history.’”
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