While international inspectors are destroying Syria's reserve of chemical weapons and the equipment used to create it, snipers allegedly working for President Bashar al-Assad are shooting children, pregnant women and their unborn babies in a target-practice game with packets of cigarettes as the prize.
David Nott, a British surgeon who recently returned from Syria after volunteering at a hospital for five weeks, told Britain's Times (of London) newspaper that snipers were targeting different body parts of civilians who were out to buy food and supplies.
"One day it would be shots to the groin. The next, it would only be the left chest. The day after, we would see no chest wounds; they were all neck," Nott said. "From the first patients that came in in the morning, you could almost tell what you would see for the rest of the day. It was a game. We heard the snipers were winning packets of cigarettes for hitting the correct number of targets."
Nott noticed that snipers targeted at least six pregnant women in one day, and they shot in a way that the women survived but their unborn babies died. "The women were all shot through the uterus, so that must have been where they were aiming for. I can't even begin to tell you how awful it was. Usually, civilians are caught in the crossfire. This is the first time I've ever seen anything like this. This was deliberate. It was hell beyond hell."
Some locals believe the snipers are mercenaries from China and Azerbaijan, the surgeon said. The name of the hospital and the area where Nott volunteered have not been disclosed.
Nott said the majority of the patients he treated were civilians, and that hospitals in Syria do not even have basic facilities and hygiene equipment.
In Syria, a civil war between President Assad's supporters and rebel forces seeking to overthrow him has taken the lives of more than 100,000 people over the last two years. As a result of the war, more than 2 million people have fled the country.
On Aug. 21, the Syrian regime allegedly used chemical weapons in an attack in a Damascus suburb, killing 1,429 people, including at least 426 children, which led to a U.N. Security Council resolution in September, which includes destruction of Syria's capability to produce chemical weapons by Nov. 1 in the first phase of the U.N. action.
The opposition to Assad is also not monolithic, and comprises groups linked with al Qaeda. Civilians, including Christians, are bearing the brunt of the civil war.