Bleary-Eyed Troops Fight a Building at a Time in Syria

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Media Outlet: The New York Times

In many ways, Homs serves as a microcosm of Syria, a community of Sunnis, Shiites, Alawites and Christians who lived side by side, only to find that the collapse of the police state quickly dissolved any sense of common purpose. Civil war came to Homs early, and it has ground on ever since, one street, one building, one apartment at a time. It has been a seesaw, with the opposition gaining ground, then the government taking it back.

That is the story of the school, this group of government soldiers and a nation caught in a contest of attrition. Half of Homs exists as it did before, where some Christians and Alawites, allied with President Assad, still cling to a normal routine, visit cafes and enjoy strolling the streets.

The other half is rubble.

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Janine di Giovanni was a fellow in New America's International Security program. She is the multi-award winning Middle East Editor of Newsweek and contributing editor of Vanity Fair.