Families broken by the carnage of Ghouta’s bombs

Boys walk on the rubble of damaged buildings after an airstrike in the besieged town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, Damascus, Syria. (Reuters)
Updated 22 February 2018
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Families broken by the carnage of Ghouta’s bombs

BEIRUT: The airstrike hit Syria’s Eastern Ghouta on Wednesday, three days into a massive bombardment. Soon afterward, rescuers pulled four children from the building, but their father was killed and they were now orphans.
A neighbor, Mohammed Abu Anas, helped to dig through the rubble and then ran for medical aid through battered alleyways with one of the children bleeding in his arms.
“There is fear and anguish among people here, there are hundreds of martyrs and injured,” he said.
The little boy dug from the rubble, blood trickling from cuts on his face, survived the attack. His sister, also alive, was slung over the shoulder of a rescue worker, her face and headscarf white from dust. Two other siblings also survived.
Their Santiha family had already been torn apart by bombing. Two years ago, the children’s mother was killed in their home in Jobar, a district where Eastern Ghouta meets Damascus.
Wednesday’s airstrike killed their father, Majid Santiha, and his body was carried away on a stretcher. Their uncle came to the medical center where they and the body of their father were taken. He will now raise them.
Nearly 400,000 people live under siege in Eastern Ghouta according to the UN, the danger from bombs compounded by shortages of food and medicine.
“We’ve barely eaten since yesterday. I ate rotten food. There are no goods left in the shops. We bought two small tins of cheese and we got seven flat rounds of bread today,” said Bilal Issa, 25.
The food is shared with his mother, his wife and his three siblings.
When the rockets started to fall right outside his home, Issa and his neighbors started to dig through the basement of their building to create a shelter.
They lifted the floor tiles to excavate a hole with spades in which grown men can now stand upright, pulling out the earth with buckets.
The airstrikes cause massive plumes of smoke that hang over the neighborhood. The sound of warplanes fills the sky.
“Whoever leaves his house or leaves the shelter can be considered dead,” said Issa.
Death is not always immediate. Omran Madani was injured by a barrel bomb that fell outside the family home in the village of Madira on Tuesday, said his father, who identified himself only as Abu Omran.
Omran died on Wednesday. His small body lay on a hospital bed wrapped neatly in a white shroud from neck to feet and his father cradled the boy’s motionless face in his hands.
He railed against Assad, the rebel groups who control Eastern Ghouta and the leaders of foreign countries involved in the war. “May they find their children dead and taste oppression,” he said. “May God take our revenge.”


Egypt court upholds corruption conviction of Mubarak, sons

Updated 20 min 9 sec ago
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Egypt court upholds corruption conviction of Mubarak, sons

  • Saturday’s ruling by the Court of Cessation dashed any hope that Gamal Mubarak could run for public office.
  • Mubarak’s two sons are currently on trial for insider trading.

CAIRO: Egypt's highest appeals court on Saturday rejected a motion by former president Hosni Mubarak and his two sons to overturn their conviction on corruption charges.
The ruling by the Court of Cessation, Egypt's final recourse for appeals in criminal cases, dashed any hope that Gamal, Mubarak's younger son and one-time heir apparent, could run for public office. A senior newspaper editor and confidant of Egypt's current president had recently suggested that banker-turned-politician Gamal may have been contemplating the move.
The Mubarak trio was sentenced to three years each for embezzling funds meant for maintenance of presidential palaces but which they spent on upgrading or building private residences. The sons were released in 2015 for time served, while their father was freed last year. They repaid the funds, a total of 125 million pounds (about $7 million).
Mubarak's sons are currently on trial for insider trading. They are free on bail after a judge on Thursday overturned a surprise Sept. 15 ruling to detain them. The case's next hearing is on Oct. 20.
The rejection of their appeal Saturday and Gamal Mubarak's subsequent ineligibility to run for office came in the wake of recent comments by the chief editor of state-run Al-Akhbar publications, Yasser Rizq, who suggested that frequent public appearances by the younger Mubarak could be a prelude to a future presidential run.
Rizq first warned Gamal Mubarak against harboring presidential ambitions in an article published in May. He repeated the warning in a television interview aired earlier this week.
"His real crime is insulting the dignity of the Egyptian people," Rizq said, alluding to Gamal's one-time intention to succeed his father. It violated the constitution and amounted to the toppling of republican rule, he explained. He said it was not improbable that he would strike a political deal with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood to secure the group's return to politics in exchange for its support in a presidential bid in 2022, when President Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi's second term ends.
Preventing Gamal from succeeding his father was among the main drivers of a 2011 uprising that ended Mubarak's 29-year rule, as well as the military's support for it. The years that followed saw Mubarak regime heavyweights tried on corruption or abuse of power charges. Most have since walked free, while second-string regime loyalists found their way back to public life under El-Sissi.