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Agreement on Chemical Weapons Alone Will Not End Suffering in Syria

Syria has indicated that it will give up chemical weapons and may even sign the chemical weapons convention, but the war with conventional weapons in Syria continues with no end in sight. On the day the Syrian government signaled a willingness to hear proposals for transferring its chemical weapons stockpiles to the international community, it continued its bombing campaign in Syria. As United Nations Security Council discussions start on the chemical weapons issue in Syria, we should ask what, when, and how will the Security Council -- whose mandate is to maintain international peace and security -- going to protect Syrians from further harm?

Manal, a mother of two, living in an internally displaced camp in Aleppo after her house was destroyed by rockets in 2013 asked me, "Why doesn't the world help Syria. I had a house, my children went to school, my husband worked as a shoemaker. We lived modestly. But now we live in constant fear of whether we will live or die. I want the rockets to stop. I want to go back to my home and live peacefully."

Weapons such as scud missiles, artillery, mortars, rockets, and cluster bombs continue to destroy Syria lives, property, and communities killing over 100,000 without distinction between civilians and combatants. Countless Syrians have been raped, tortured, summarily executed, and arbitrarily detained. A United Nations estimate puts the average monthly death toll in Syria at 5,000 since July 2012. Over 2 million refugees and over 4 million internally displaced persons are trying to survive despite inadequate food, water, and medicine. The toll of the armed conflict is found in the suffering of civilians who describe their loss of life and limbs, homes, schools, and communities.

Ten-year-old Amina is displaced as her home and school were destroyed in Taftanaz. She described to me how she listens to sounds of artillery versus sniper firing, "When the sniper fires, it's a single swoosh. When there are jet fighters there is a screeching sound. A mortar sound is like a whistle... Listening for such sounds is like [being in] school... I am learning to protect myself."

An agreement limited only to the issue of chemical weapons -- while highly important -- will not end the suffering of Manal or Amina and thousands of Syrians who continue to face every other type of harm from conventional weapons. The international community must overcome its paralysis and find a way to resolve the conflict in Syria and end the suffering.

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