“If the mortar had landed 15 minutes later, the children would have been in their classrooms,” lamented a school official in the Bab Touma area of the Old City of Damascus not long after a mortar slammed into a schoolyard full of children this week.
“At 07:45 in the morning, nearly 300 children were playing outside.”
Mortars are inaccurate, indiscriminate, and many more are landing in cities across Syria.
They’re believed to be fired by rebels, but the government is also accused of launching them into neighbourhoods under its control. So brutal is this war that nothing is considered unthinkable.
The impact of small crude mortars is limited compared to far more powerful weapons like the improvised barrel bombs, packed with explosives and metal, being shoved out of Syrian military jets in the northern city of Aleppo, and elsewhere, causing carnage.
But they are part of all the weapons of war that now reach all parts of Syria.
“I have started to believe there is no moral difference between a barrel bomb and a mortar,” reflected a senior church cleric in Damascus who, for the past three years, has tried to steer a middle path through a polarising punishing war.
On Sunday, we saw two mortars land, sending up clouds of white smoke, a few hundred metres from where we were stuck in a Damascus traffic jam that snaked across the length of a major flyover.
On some days, up to 100 mortars have hit central areas of the city, while the Syrian military pounds rebel strongholds in suburbs that lie in ruin.
Cameraman Phil Goodwin took four fragments of shrapnel in his leg and chest. Producer Natalie Morton suffered slight burns from the metal that flew in all directions.
Theirs was the luckiest of escapes. “Many Syrians [are] not so lucky,” Philwrote on his twitter account.
Our thoughts go out to those injured in the attacks in Syria and their families and of course the the many killed and wounded children in this awful conflict.
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