International Concern Over Syria’s Eastern Ghouta

Author: Compilation by: Pereslavtsev / From Wikimedia Commons

An illegitimate ceasefire was agreed and then overturned last month in eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, the capital of Syria, as heavy fighting and intense shelling resumed two days later, according to a war monitor and a pro-government media source, Reuters attested.

The Reuters article had originally reported that a Hezbollah government ally-run military media unit stated that the Syrian army had driven back an attack by jihadist rebels who had detonated a car bomb. Other residents of Damascus had witnessed smoke and heavy bombing in eastern Ghouta.

In a twenty day long assault, the Syrian regime and allies have taken hold of more than half of the area, resulting in the deaths of more than 1,000 civilians, despite global pressure to suspend the violence. It has been reported that the regimes advancements over the weekend have split the region into three parts. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British based war monitor, “Regime forces have therefore divided Eastern Ghouta into three parts – Douma and its surroundings, Harasta in the west, and the rest of the towns further south.”

Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières – MSF) report of a human disaster as it has received 48,000 casualties between February 18th to March 4th. It repeats its calls for an instant ceasefire to allow medics to supply and treat those who are sick and wounded.

The Syrian Army Medical Society (SAMS) is a non-profit medical relief organisation that continuously helps to provide medical care for Syria and neighbouring countries. The SAMS website includes information from late 2014 up to February 2017, amongst which is a report of smuggling tunnels used to help besieged residents escape eastern Ghouta and pass to opposition-held neighbourhoods such as Qaboun and Barzeh. The Syrian government, though, has sealed off the tunnels, cutting off a vital lifeline for eastern Ghouta.

Zaman al Wasl, a leading newspaper in Syria, published an article describing the living conditions for dozens of families in the region who have been living in basement shelters to escape the constant bombing. The article goes on to outline the lack of education for children, as schools are unable to operate, and the deterioration of health due to the deprivation of lighting, electricity, food and water.

The Karam Foundation, another non-profit organisation, is partnering with the Rural Damascus Health Directorate, making food packages locally and providing them to the vulnerable and malnourished children of eastern Ghouta. A statement by the organisation’s CEO, Lina Sergie Attar, taken from the Karam Foundation website declares, “War crimes are being committed in Syria in front of our eyes.”

Attar continues, “History will prove, as it has in genocides before, that the silent witnesses are as complicit in the crimes as the perpetrators.”

As reported by CNN, Syrian activists have revealed that the living conditions in eastern Ghouta are the poorest they have been in four years. The article also mentions that the situation has become ever more severe due to the blockage of the underground tunnels by Syrian regime forces.

International concern has been heightened by the sheer horror of recent civilian deaths due to bombing and malnourishment, with the United Nations describing eastern Ghouta as “hell on earth”. On Monday, the United States presented the UN’s fifteen-member Security Council with a draft resolution, demanding an immediate 30-day ceasefire and asking to “urgently develop proposals for monitoring of implementation of the cessation of hostilities and any movement of civilians,” as per a New York Times piece on Monday.

Last month, Turkey also expressed concern at the use of chlorine bombs in the region, which has resulted in more than 130 deaths in eastern Ghouta since 5th February, according to a report that appeared in Hurriyet Daily News, a Turkish-based news source.

Global Seven News

Written by Thomasina Jordan-Rhodes