Middle East

Syrians' resentment at Western delay

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionIan Pannell reports from Taftanaz in northern Syria on the devastation caused by government attacks

While some Syrians inside the country welcome the idea of military intervention, many are critical of what they say has been indifference to their plight for the last two-and-a-half years, as the BBC's Ian Pannell discovered in the north of the country.

Abdul Majid's face is a testament to the random brutality of the Syrian war. The 14-month-old had been playing in the corridor of his home when a bomb from a government fighter jet smashed into the building. That he is alive at all is no small miracle.

His cheeks are bruised and scarred from the shrapnel, his eyes bloodshot. The boy's mother and sister were also injured in the attack.

Fourteen people are believed to have been killed in a series of strikes by government forces on his hometown of Taftanaz on 5 September.

The boy's father Abu Abdu is angry, not just at President Bashar al-Assad and his military forces, but also at what he sees as the indifference of the outside world to what is happening in Syria.

If America decides to put its plans to attack on hold, which is looking increasingly likely, it will only make that anger worse, highlighting fundamental differences between the view on the ground and that in Western capitals.

Homes ripped apart

Image caption Signs of residents' lives before the attack can be found amid the destruction

The case for intervention made by America and others has focused on the issue of chemical weapons. But for many Syrians opposed to the government, the issue is not how people are being killed but the fact that so many continue to die each day.

"Why is there silence?" Abu Abdu asks. "Is it because we're Muslims? Is our blood cheaper than yours?"

Like many Syrians he has lost faith that anyone will help. "You've seen the destruction, the chemical attacks, the shelling. What did anyone do?"

The man's brother showed us around what remains of the home in Taftanaz. Flowery dresses still hang in the wardrobe; plates are stacked neatly on the shelves. Everything is coated in a thick layer of dust from the blast that ripped open one side of the house and brought other floors crashing down.

He says families caught up in the spiralling violence have been trying to escape. "When we thought things were improving we decided to come back home. But we didn't expect this. Now we will leave the village again for a few days but we'll have to come back. Where else should we go?"

Image caption Fourteen-month-old Abdul Majid was wounded by a bomb from a jet

Rebel fighters have used the village as a base in the past and the government has repeatedly attacked it. But invariably it has been civilians who have been killed.

We followed a young media activist on his motorbike as he weaved through the rubble and ruins of Taftanaz. Ibrahim has recorded each attack on his village but he suspects that the possibility of US air strikes provoked the latest salvo from the government.

"Before this strike they'd shell us with missiles and artillery, for no reason, there are only civilians here," he says.

"But in the last few days it just got heavier. I think it's because of American statements about strikes on Syria and the regime wants to prove it's still strong and won't surrender."

Opportunity for rebels

Events on the ground in Syria have consistently outpaced the international debate about what to do in Syria.

Up in the rocky hills of Jabel Al-Zawiyeh in the north of the country, the fight between the army and the rebels is undiminished by the prospect of outside intervention.

Artillery shells crash into ancient villages, sending thick dirty plumes of smoke into the air. The crackle of gunfire echoes across the valley as opposition fighters and the army struggle for control of a key piece of turf.

But while the army may fear the possibility of US-led air strikes, its opponents see an opportunity.

Abu Mohammed, a commander with Ahrar al-Sham, one of the largest rebel groups in the north, says he wants the West to attack President Assad.

"Wherever they strike, we will strike. In fact we're already doing this but it will make our mission easier and quicker."

Image caption Those in towns like Taftanaz have given up hope of protection from regime strikes

If those threatened strikes do not now happen it could fuel resentment and marginalise more moderate groups ready to engage with the West.

There are fears that other radical groups like The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria - which is allied with al-Qaeda - will also try to use any US-led intervention to their advantage.

For now many of them have gone into hiding, fearing their old enemy America will target them too. But their growing presence is a mark of how radicalised this war has become and how complex any solution has become.

Syrians have starkly different views on their future and the role, if any, for the outside world. One thing most do agree on though is the need to end the bloodshed.

Many of those in the north whose lives have been forever altered by this war desperately want help from the outside world. But after two-and-a-half years of war and appalling suffering, they have given up hope it will ever come.