Syria conflict spirals into ‘hell on Earth’

State of terror: The rebel enclave of eastern Ghouta has been under siege since 2013. © Getty

Has the Syria conflict become a new world war? Hundreds have been “massacred” in one of the war’s deadliest attacks. As other world powers join the bloodbath, there is scant hope of peace.

Eastern Ghouta was once a peaceful oasis amid the harsh Syrian desert — often compared by locals to the Garden of Eden. But now it has been dubbed the “closest thing to hell on Earth”, after forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad unleashed waves of bombs upon the region.

Since Monday at least 250 civilians have died, with seven hospitals hit by the onslaught.

Civilians were allegedly targeted indiscriminately, with Amnesty International claiming the attacks constitute “flagrant war crimes”.

One doctor recalled treating a boy pulled from the rubble. His face was blue, his mouth full of dirt, and he gasped for air through “lungs of sand”.

There is little sign it will end soon. In fact, according to CNN this assault is merely the “prelude” to an upcoming “Russian-backed offensive” to crush resistance in the area.

Russia has long been an ally to the Syrian president, however, it is just one of many powers involved in the conflict which has become a proxy for wider international rivalries.

For example, America provided weapons to rebels, and launched airstrikes against pro-Assad troops — some of which recently killed several Russian mercenaries.

On top of this, Israel has also started bombing Assad’s forces, its rival Iran being a long-term ally to the regime.

Is the Syrian War actually a world war?

Up in arms

It increasingly looks like it, some argue. The conflict first erupted after Syrians protested domestic issues like unemployment. Now all manner of powers use it as a battleground for their own aims.

We must not sensationalise the issue, others respond. Different countries are involved but it is Syrian blood being spilled, and Syrian cries rising unheeded into the sky. Using overblown terms like “world war” distracts us from this fact.

You Decide

  1. Is war ever justified?

Activities

  1. In pairs, write down everything you know about the war in Syria. Share your thoughts with the class and write them down on the board to create a wide selection of facts. What do you know now that you did not know before?

Some People Say...

“We are waiting for our turn to die. This is the only thing I can say.”

Bilal Abu Salah — eastern Ghouta resident.

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The Syrian Civil War began after a civil uprising in 2011. Since then approximately 400,000 people have been killed.
What do we not know?
What will happen next. Whilst there are reports of further assaults being planned, Western leaders including Emmanuel Macron have called for a truce to allow civilians to be evacuated.

Word Watch

Garden of Eden
According to the Bible, this was the paradise where Adam and Eve were created.
Bashar al-Assad
President of Syria. Since the start of the war he has been accused of war crimes, most notably for the use of chemical weapons against civilians.
Proxy
A proxy war is when conflict is orchestrated by major powers, but when neither side directly engages the other. Instead they attack each other’s interests using the forces of other nations or groups.

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