During his annual Christmas address at the Vatican this year, the Pope prayed for peace in Syria, something that doesn't look likely any time soon. Pope Benedict XVI specifically called for an end to the violence on Syria's "defenseless" people, who have been caught in the middle of the fighting throughout this conflict. Like two days ago, for example, when Syrian troops bombed a line of people waiting for bread, during a food shortage the civil war has brought. "I appeal for an end to the bloodshed, easier access for the relief of refugees and the displaced, and dialogue in the pursuit of a political solution to the conflict," he said, also asking for "freedom" in China. 

In addition to the increasing violence, recent peace efforts have failed. The special U.N. envoy that met with President Bashar al-Assad yesterday reported no progress in halting the conflict, report The Los Angeles Times's Ned Parker and Lava Selo. And unfortunately, sources described it to The New York Times's Kareem Fahim and Hala Droub as a "final proposal" to end the conflict, leaving Assad now to decide his fate for himself. No matter the path he chooses, that sounds like a bloody end, too, as The New York Times's Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad describe it.

He can either stay, and fight for his cause, which leads to more of what we've seen, as the conflict has escalated. (Including possible gas-attacks.) If he tries to escape, it doesn't look likely that he will make it out without capture from either side. His own generals will want him to rally troops. Or, it could go the other way, and he will face death at the hands of his people. As Assad plots his next move, however, it doesn't look like the "defenseless" people will get respite from war, with reports of the bloodshed continuing.