A Children's Story: Part 1:
[Children's Orthopedics Ward, Al-Mouwasat Hospital, Damascus, Syria]
It was about 11 in the morning on Tuesday August 2, 2016 when two sisters, ten year-old Ghina and her eight year-old younger sister Nagham were walking a short distance from their home to the town of Madaya to its "field hospital" to acquire serum for their anemic mother Sahar whose body was very deficient in calcium because of 18 months existence with very little food. For more than a year, after having fled from their own Sunni village of Zabadani due to fighting, the family has been living in surrounded Madaya, a mountain town of 40,000, now four times its pre-war population, about a 30 minutes' drive northwest of Damascus. Military forces encircled Madaya in July of 2015 as part of a broader offensive to recapture the nearby Qalmoun Mountain villages and the town of Zabadani, held by rebels since 2012. Residents of Madaya have been trapped ever since.
Having made their medicine purchase, the girls started their 60 yard walk home. An eye-witness says that a sniper near al-Asali checkpoint took aim and fired at the youngsters. One explode-on-impact bullet entered Ghina's upper-left thigh, shattering her leg bone and thigh.
For an instant, not knowing what had happened, Ghina's younger sister 7 year old Nagham, noticing that Ghina had dropped the small plastic medicine bag to be given to their mother at home, instinctively picked it up and began to scold her big sister for dropping it. The little heroine, by now instantly covered in her sister's blood, tried to pull badly bleeding Ghina off the road to a secure location, the roadside ditch. The sniper took aim a second time. This time, shrapnel from the bullet struck Nagham's right arm and hand. The two young girls lay on the side of the road until minutes later when passersby were able to pull them out of the line of fire and transport them to the towns nearby "field hospital".
Over the past year, snipers have killed seven people in Madaya, according to both a report published on 7/13/2016 by Physicians for Human Rights, a US-based organization that has provided medical assistance to thousands in Syria since the civil war erupted in March of 2011, and a separate incident report from the Madaya Medical Commission published on 7/23/2016. The following week, snipers shot and wounded three more people, a Madaya resident reported last week by telephone to a relative of the girl's family.
The sniping of civilians continues until today in Madaya as some try to escape the siege imposed on their town. So also do deaths mount from the approximately 6,000 landmines around the southern and eastern sides of the town, placed there by militia in order to further imprison residents inside.
Such indiscriminate use of landmines in a populated civilian area violates international humanitarian law and, as with sniping civilians, constitutes a punishable war crime once the conflict ends and hopefully the global community insists on full accountability under the law for all who have targeted the people of Syria.