The use of snipers gives the lie to government propaganda. Snipers know exactly whom they’re shooting. When snipers look through their telescopic sights at someone’s head or chest, they know if the target is a child or a fighter. According to the Aleppo Civilian Medical Council, snipers in the “Corridor of Death” gun down five to 20 civilians every day. Most of the victims die instantly. Those who survive are likely to suffer lifelong disabilities: amputations, loss of an eye, or spinal cord injury and paralysis are just a few on a long list of possibilities. The Oxford Research Group reports that 11,420 children (aged 17 and under) were recorded killed in the Syrian conflict by end of August 2013, from an overall total of 113,735 civilians and combatants killed. One in four of those child deaths were caused by small arms fire, including children targeted and summarily executed by snipers. Hamza was one of those unlucky children.
For many citizens of Aleppo, venturing to the other side of the city is not optional. Some have to take the risk on their daily commutes to and from work. Others have to venture to the farmer’s market on the eastern side to buy food and fuel. Still others make the perilous journey to visit their families stuck on the opposite side of the crossing.
It was clear to the doctors who treated the victims that the strategy has since shifted: Snipers are no longer merely scaring the population with the threat of random bullets. They now intend to cause irreversible harm or death. Aleppine doctors have told me horrific stories depicting sadistic patterns in the snipers’ targets. The snipers have turned the killings into a sickening sport. Some of the shooters, probably bored by long hours of scouring for targets, play games, challenging themselves to hit two people with one bullet, or picking off stray cats and dogs.
David Nott, a British trauma surgeon who has previously worked in war zones in Bosnia, Libya, Chad, Sudan, and the Congo, spent five weeks at M-1, and told the London Times that snipers would chose to aim at different parts of civilians bodies each day. On the first day, they would aim for the groin; the next day, the neck; the next, the chest. “From the first patients that came in the morning, you could almost tell what you’d see for the rest of the day,” Nott reported. “It was a game. We heard the snipers were winning packets of cigarettes for hitting the correct number of targets.”