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Eastern Ghouta is a “hell on Earth”

520 people have died in eastern Ghouta since February 18th. It was the aftermath of the regime’s air raids on this territory controlled by the anti-government forces. Ghouta is located 15 kilometers west of Damascus, the country’s capital, and inhabited by almost 400,000 people. The Syrian army has continued the siege of this area since 2013. The current air raids have caused one of the worst humanitarian crises during the 7 year-long war in Syria.

Photos and videos from eastern Ghouta always show the same picture – the sea of ruins shrouded in dust. Most of the footage comes from the “White Helmets”, rescue groups whose members record the situation with cameras placed on their heads. Explosions of air barrel bombs or artillery shells are heard in the background. In one of the videos, a wall of fire appears in front of a rescue worker who stops and, after a moment, runs through it. Another, having recognized the sound of a falling bomb, plummets to the ground. You can hear the explosion, the ground is shaking.

The situation in eastern Ghouta was not affected by the resolution adopted on February 24th by the UN Security Council. It was passed unanimously, also by Russia, which previously had blocked its adoption. The resolution calls for an immediate ceasefire in the whole of Syria, which is to take effect for 30 days. This is to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid to the inhabitants of the eastern Ghouta and Afrin in northern Syria.

The fight continues

The resolution does not provide a specific period within which the fighting should stop. The only thing it mentions is that it is to be “immediate”. It does not include groups which are deemed to be terrorist such as the ones which are present in eastern Ghouta and could be linked with Al-Qaeda. However, these are not key opposition groups. The most influential are Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam) and Al-Rahman legion, related to the Free Syrian Army. The fighter groups were firing in the direction of regime-controlled regions. They are also responsible for the bomb attacks in Damasc”us.

However, after the adoption of the resolution, the regime began operation with the use of land forces. Doctors working in eastern Ghouta informed that chemical weapons had been used again. This time, allegedly, the substance used was chlorine. One child has died as a result.
Before the adoption of the resolution, the United Nations admitted that the situation in these areas was “spinning out of control”.

Dramatic humanitarian situation

The International Committee of the Red Cross alerts that the medical personnel in eastern Ghouta cannot cope with such a large number of injured. There is not enough medicines and medical supplies. President of the ICRC Mission in Syria, Marianne Gasser, called that the groups of the doctors from the organization are allowed to enter the besieged territory. “The wounded are dying just because they are not getting help on time”, she says.

At the end of November UNICEF reported that the situation in eastern Ghouta, besieged since mid-2013, is drastically deteriorating. In January 2017, a study showed that 2.1% of the children are severely malnourished. In November, the number has grown to almost 12%. Mothers, due to poor health and being in constant danger, have problems with breastfeeding. Preparation of meals often exceeds the financial capabilities of families. In August the prices of bread in eastern Ghouta were 24 times higher than in Damascus, only 15 kilometers away. In November, the bread was already 85 times more expensive. Gas cylinder cost 300 US dollars, compared to 44 in Damascus.

The situation in eastern Ghouta was not affected by the resolution adopted on February 24th by the UN Security Council. It was passed unanimously, also by Russia, which previously had blocked its adoption. The resolution calls for an immediate ceasefire in the whole of Syria, which is to take effect for 30 days. This is to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid to the inhabitants of the eastern Ghouta and Afrin in northern Syria.

This hell will last

According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 521 people, including 131 children have been killed since February 18th. Only on February 19th 127 people died and another 133 the day after. On Sunday, February 25th 14 people lost their lives. The Doctors Without Borders organization cites similar data – between 18th and 23rd February the staff at hospitals and supporting clinics “saw over 2500 wounded and more than 520 people killed”.

In mid-March the eighth year of the Syrian war will begin. As a result, more than 400,000 people were killed and 11 million (half of the population of Syria) had to flee their homes. Although most of the territories have been liberated from the control of ISIS, the end of the war is still a distant prospect.

Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the UN, described the situation in eastern Ghouta as “hell on Earth”. It is difficult, however, to expect that the appeals and resolutions will end the fight over these territories. The government forces do not intend to give up the previously regained control and the opposition groups, in turn, do not want to lay down the arms. The hell for civilians will last.

Zamknij