The above video, uploaded on Saturday to YouTube, appears to show a Syrian army anti-aircraft tank firing wildly into an urban neighborhood in the city of Douma, just outside of Damascus. As the tank swivels and aims, apparently at random, two posters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are visible on either side of the turret.
The tank, which Chris Albon identified as a Russian ZSU-23-4 "Shilka," fires enormous 23-millimeter rounds that are meant to destroy far-away aircraft. A few rounds, fired in Syria's dense and old architecture, could tear through dozens of houses, as is surely the point. "AA-guns are brutal weapon to use against civilians," Albon tweeted, "but sadly not uncommon." According to Dan Murphy of the Christian Science Monitor, "they were used a lot by Qaddafi in Libya. One of those rounds will rip a body in two."
This sort of irrational, random killing -- brought not to anti-regime militants or even protesters on the street but to families cowering in their homes -- may help explain why Syrian activists say 59 children have been killed in the week since China and Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling for Assad's resignation. The Syrian regime has often targeted children in the now months-long crackdown.
The fighting in Douma has been especially intense since January 21, when rebel fighters briefly seized control over parts of the city, which they have since lost. Fighting between rebels and the Syrian army has been reported as recently as this morning, when regime troops stormed the town's Grand Mosque.
A man off-camera, presumably hiding with whoever is recording, can be heard to say, "For you Homs, aim the tanks at us." And, "This is for the love of Homs, we sacrifice for Homs." That city has become a center of Syria's uprising, for which Assad's military is punishing it with devastating artillery barrages on densely populated areas. A graphic from Reuters, copied below, shows some of the army's attacks.
In Douma, as in Homs and much of Syria, the regime has spent the past week bringing violence against its own people with such impunity, such disregard for even a veneer of humanity, that it is difficult to imagine it feels any restraint at all. Two months ago, a United Nations office announced it had been to confirm over 5,000 deaths. Since then, with monitors expelled, it has lost access. But every day since seems filled with reports from local activists claiming 30-odd deaths in Hama, 20-some in Idlib, a few dozen wherever the latest protesters dared to enter the streets. How many hundreds or thousands of Syrian civilians have died in the last two months is impossible to say, but as the video above demonstrates, Assad's regime will go on killing with senseless impunity as long as it is able.