Homs, Aleppo, Daraya, besieged Enclaves bombarded by Syrian regime before Ghouta

Photo showing smoke rises from the rebel held besieged town of Hamouriyeh, eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, Feb 21, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 22 February 2018
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Homs, Aleppo, Daraya, besieged Enclaves bombarded by Syrian regime before Ghouta

BEIRUT: Before Eastern Ghouta there was Homs, Aleppo, Daraya — rebel towns and enclaves that the Syrian regime pounded and besieged, forcing fighters to give up their arms and civilians to flee.

Syria’s third city Homs was dubbed the “capital of the revolution,” after anti-government protests erupted in March 2011, but from 2012 it came under a two-year siege.
In 2014, rebels cornered by advancing regime forces agreed to be evacuated, although the government went on to besiege Waer, the last remaining opposition-held district in the city.
During the siege nearly 2,200 people were killed in the Homs’s Old City, according to the Syrian Observatory For Human Rights.
In the historic center of the city, completely in ruins, those remaining had virtually nothing left to eat and lived off grass and dry foods.
Between March and May 2017, thousands of rebels and civilians fled the district of Waer, allowing the regime’s forces to retake full control of Homs.

Once Syria’s commercial hub, Aleppo was devastated by more than four years of fighting, particularly along the front line that separated the rebel-held east from the government-held west.
Early in 2016, the regime’s forces, supported by Lebanese movement Hezbollah and Russian warplanes, launched an offensive in Aleppo.
Much of the city was reduced to wasteland.
Rebel districts were under near-continuous siege by the army. Heavy shelling by the army destroyed all established hospitals in the area.
Towards the end of 2016, after a month of respite, bombardments picked up again and international observers talked about “crimes against humanity” committed by the regime and its Russian allies.
In December 2016, the Syrian army declared it was in full control of Aleppo.

Daraya was one of the first towns in Syria to erupt in demonstrations against the government in 2011; it also became one of the first to be placed under a strict regime siege in 2012.
The Syrian army recaptured the town in 2016 after the evacuation of thousands of rebels and civilians who had been under a relentless siege and incessant bombardment.
In 2017, the army recaptured the region of Wadi Barada near Damascus as well as several rebel districts in the capital.
Thousands of civilians and fighters were bussed to the northwestern province of Idlib.
In recent months, the regime has recaptured several rebel areas around Damascus under so-called “reconciliation” deals involving the evacuation of fighters in exchange for an end to bombardments and sieges.
In a report titled “We leave or we die,” Amnesty analyzed four local accords which the rights body said were preceded by unlawful sieges and bombardment aimed at forcing civilians to abandon their homes.
“The Syrian government and, to a lesser degree, armed opposition groups have enforced sieges on densely populated areas, depriving civilians of food, medicine and other basic necessities in violation of international humanitarian law,” Amnesty said.


Sudan security forces tear gas protesters in Omdurman

Updated 22 January 2019
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Sudan security forces tear gas protesters in Omdurman

  • The mushrooming protests are widely seen as the biggest threat to Bashir’s rule
  • Protesters described using medical masks soaked in vinegar to fend off tear gas

KHARTOUM: Sudanese police fired tear gas at crowds of demonstrators in the capital’s twin city Omdurman on Tuesday protesting against the fatal wounding of a demonstrator last week, witnesses said.

The demonstration, which came ahead of planned nighttime rallies in both Omdurman and Khartoum just across the Nile, was the latest in more than a month of escalating protests against the three-decade rule of President Omar Bashir.

Bashir has made defiant appearances at loyalist rallies in Khartoum and other cities.

Chanting “overthrow, overthrow” and “freedom, peace and justice,” the catchword slogans of the protest movement, the demonstrators had gathered near the home of their dead comrade.

The doctors’ branch of the Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA) said he had died on Monday from wounds sustained when demonstrators clashed with security forces in Khartoum on Thursday.

The SPA has taken the lead in organizing the protests after hundreds of opposition activists were detained, and its doctors’ branch has taken casualties.

Human rights groups say that several medics have been among more than 40 people killed in clashes with the security forces since the protests erupted on Dec. 19, 2018.

The authorities say 26 people have been killed, including at least one doctor, but blame rebel provocateurs they say have infiltrated the protesters’ ranks.

The mushrooming protests are widely seen as the biggest threat to Bashir’s rule since he took power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989.

Triggered by the government’s tripling of the price of bread, which brought demonstrators onto the streets of the eastern farming hub of Atbara and other provincial towns, the protests rapidly spread to the metropolis and other big cities as people vented their anger against the government.

A chronic shortage of foreign currency since the breakaway of South Sudan in 2011 deprived the government of most of its oil revenues, has stoked spiraling inflation and widespread shortages.

Bashir has survived previous protest movements in September 2013 and January last year.

But his efforts to blame the US for Sudan’s economic woes have fallen on increasingly deaf ears as people have struggled to buy even basic foods and medicines.

“I am tired of prices going up every minute and standing up in bread lines for hours only for the bakery’s owner to decide how many loaves I can buy,” a 42-year-old woman, Fatima, said during protests last week on the outskirts of the capital of Khartoum.

Fatima and others speaking to the AP would not provide their full names, insisting on anonymity because they fear reprisals by the authorities.

Protesters described using medical masks soaked in vinegar or yeast and tree leaves to fend off tear gas. They said they try to fatigue police by staging nighttime flash protests in residential alleys unfamiliar to the security forces.

“We have used tactics employed by the Egyptians, Tunisians and Syrians but we have so far refrained from pelting security forces with rocks or firebombs,” said Ashraf, another demonstrator.

They said there was little they can do about live ammunition except to keep medics and doctors close by to administer first aid to casualties.

They also described checking paths of planned protests to identify escape routes and potential ambushes by police. Some of their slogans are borrowed from the Arab Spring days, like “the people want to bring down the regime.”