Our Opinion: Circle of violence fueled by Syria

The assassination of Russia's ambassador to Turkey Monday adds another twist to the Byzantine complexity of the tragedy of Syria, where the only real certainty is that bloodshed will lead to further bloodshed.

Andrey Karlov was gunned down by an off-duty policeman as he spoke at a photo exhibit in the Turkish capital of Ankara. Various media sources were covering the event and have provided graphic footage of the shooting. The 22-year-old assailant was reportedly killed by police.

According to Turkish media, the gunman shouted "Don't forget Aleppo, don't forget Syria," after killing the ambassador, and then made reference to jihad in Arabic. Turkey, which has long had a difficult relationship with Russia, is now working with Moscow to rescue civilians from Aleppo, but the need for rescue is in large part because of Russian complicity in Syrian President Bashar Assad's destruction of that city.

In his fight against rebel forces, which certainly include Islamic jihadists, Mr. Assad has gassed and bombed buildings housing civilians, destroyed hospitals, and turned away food and humanitarian aid. These actions meet the definition of war crimes, but the Syrian leader, propped up by Russia and Iran, is unlikely to face charges in an international court any time soon, if ever.

In Aleppo Monday, thousands of civilians were evacuated from the last rebel-head section of the city as a fragile cease-fire held throughout the day. Civilians were reportedly sleeping in the streets during freezing temperatures as they awaited evacuation to rebel-held territory. Turkey has promised to build camps for them near its border with Syria, and the United Nations, after initial Russian opposition, will monitor further evacuations and conditions in the refugee camps. Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., reported Monday that while many Syrians escaped Aleppo, there were reports of many more being hauled off buses and shot on the spot while others vanished, perhaps jailed or conscripted into military service.

The evacuations will increase the burden on the nations that have agreed to accept refugees from Syria. The United States, including the states of New England, must do more to help, following a strict vetting process already in place that puts an emphasis on finding homes for Syrian families. A horrible toll has been taken on children during warfare throughout Syria in general and in particular Aleppo, where fighting began nearly six years ago.

Russia has vetoed six U.N. security council resolutions on Syria during those years while it has armed the Assad regime, and if Monday's assassination was intended as a statement about Russian actions it is more likely to heighten tensions than benefit innocent Syrians in any meaningful way. Tit-for-tat violence has long been a staple in this region and the results have long been evident, including on Monday.


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