AFP / ABDULMONAM EASSA
A picture taken on February 21, 2018 shows a smoke feather rising following a reported regime air strike in the rebel-held enclave of Hamouria in the Eastern Ghouta near Damascus
International Pressure Mounted to a Rebellion Held Near Damascus Where Syrian Jets Have Been Raining Bombs in a Blitz That Has Killed More Than 300. United Nations chief Antonio Guterres described the death and devastation that has engulfed Eastern Ghouta since Sunday as “hell on earth”, and joined France in calling for an immediate humanitarian truce.
The UN Security Council is expected to vote, probably on Thursday, on a draft resolution demanding a 30-day ceasefire to allow deliveries of aid and medical evacuations. The push for a vote after the Red Cross asked for access to the area, saying the situation was so dire that its teams should be allowed access to Eastern Ghouta to help overwhelmed doctors and nurses. Fresh air raids on several parts of the enclave killed at least 50 civilians, including eight children, and wounded 350 on Wednesday. Many of the region’s hospitals have also been targeted, leaving many out of service. “The fight seems likely to cause much more suffering in the days and weeks ahead, and our teams need to be allowed to enter Eastern Ghouta to help the wounded,” said Marianne Gasser, the International Committee of the Red Cross’s head of delegation in Syria . Syrian warplanes have this month intensified their strikes on the area, which is just east of Damascus and is home to around 400,000 civilians. – Overwhelmed medics – “Wounded victims are dying only because they can not be treated in time,” Gasser said.
AFP / Amer ALMOHIBANY
Wounded Syrians seek treatment at a make-shift hospital in Kafr Batna following Syrian government bombardments on the besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on February 21, 2018
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, around 1,500 people have been wounded since Sunday in the bloodiest episodes of the seven-year war. Many of Wednesday ‘s victims were killed when barrel bombs – crude, improvised ammunition that usually caused indiscriminate damage – were dropped on the town of Kfar Batna.
The hospital in Douma, the largest town in Eastern Ghouta, is still functioning and the influx of doctors and nurses can not save everyone. The UN and an NGO said at least seven hospitals were bombed on Monday and Tuesday. “Said Ahmad Abdulghani, a doctor at the Dar al-Shifa hospital in Hammuriyeh,” a victim of a strike. ” “This is a hospital that treats the sick and civilians, why target it?” Rami Abdel Rahman said at least 76 children were among the 320 people killed in strikes since Sunday. Syrian state news SANA agency said 18 people were wounded in Damascus by rebel shelling. – ‘Pretext’ – Sweden and Kuwait drafted a resolution pushing for a long-term ceasefire, requesting a vote “as soon as possible,” the Swedish mission said. Guterres told the UN Security Council he was “deeply saddened by the terrible suffering” of civilians in Eastern Ghouta where he said “live in hell on earth”.
AFP / Amer ALMOHIBANY
A Syrian-regime helicopter flies over Kafr Batna during Syrian government bombings on the besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on February 21, 2018
French President Emmanuel Macron accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime of using terrorism as a “pretext” to attack civilians. Russia, which is Assad’s main backer but denies direct involvement in the Ghouta strikes, a Security Council meeting on the crisis, which Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia described as a “complex situation”.
“There are terrorists there who Syrian army is fighting,” Nebenzia said. But US Ambassador Nikki Haley said it was “simply preposterous to claim that these attacks on civilians have anything to do with fighting terrorism”. “It is time to take immediate action in the hopes of saving the lives of men, women, and children who are under attack by the barbaric Assad regime,” she said, urging council members to support the draft resolution. Anti-regime groups, mostly Islamist factions as well as Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate form, have controlled the area since 2012. With the Islamic State group’s “spongling” ounce of the “caliphate”, the regime is now back to its reconquest. Ghouta, on the outskirts of the capital, is a key target. – New Aleppo – In recent days, government forces have been massing around Eastern Ghouta, apparently preparing for a ground offensive. “We have long feared Eastern Ghouta,” said Mark Schnellbaecher, the regional head of the International Rescue Committee. The battle that saw forces wrest back the country’s second city from rebel forces in 2016 caused extensive destruction and suffering that drew comparisons with the World War II era devastation in Stalingrad and the Warsaw ghetto.
AFP / ABDULMONAM EASSA
A Syrian surveys the destruction following an air strike on the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta town of Hamouria on February 21, 2018
“We do not go outside,” said Khadija, 53, hiding in a basement in the town of Douma. Shivering as she gathered several children around her in the darkened room, she said: “There are planes above us and missiles landing around us: where should we go with our children?”
The regime is also seeking to restore its grip on other areas in the north, including the province of Idlib, the last one that remains largely outside its control. On Tuesday, regime forces deployed in the region of Afrin, Kurdish enclave along Syria’s northern border with Turkey. The move came after Kurdish forces asked Damascus to protect it from a month-old offensive by Ankara. They quickly came under shelling by Turkish forces, who said they had fired “warning shots” at the “pro-regime terrorist groups”.