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.”


UN envoy says ‘robust monitoring regime’ urgently needed in Yemen, Saudi hails Yemen accord

Updated 28 min 26 sec ago
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UN envoy says ‘robust monitoring regime’ urgently needed in Yemen, Saudi hails Yemen accord

  • The withdrawal of armed forces from the Yemeni port of Hodeidah will happen within days
  • Saudi Arabia says it is committed to reaching a political solution that guarantees the security and stability of Yemen

JEDDAH: UN special envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths on Friday urged the creation of a “robust and competent monitoring regime” in war-ravaged Yemen, one day after fighting parties agreed to a cease-fire at a vital port.
“A robust and competent monitoring regime is not just essential. It is also urgently needed,” Griffiths told the Security Council, adding that “allowing the UN the lead role in the ports is the vital first step.”
If implemented, the deal on Hodeidah port, a key gateway for aid and food imports, could bring relief to a country where 14 million people stand on the brink of famine.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia on Friday hailed the accord reached at the UN-brokered peace talks in Sweden.
Yemen’s warring parties on Thursday agreed to a cease-fire on a vital port in a series of breakthroughs in the talks.
In a statement by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Kingdom backed “the agreements reached in Sweden in UN-sponsored talks between a delegation of Yemen’s legitimate government and the Houthi rebels,” the official SPA news agency reported.
“The Kingdom remains engaged in the search for a political solution in Yemen which guarantees the security and stability of the country,” the statement said.
The statement also called on the Iran-aligned Houthis to “embark on this path” toward a political solution.
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry also said on Friday that it welcomed the agreement between Yemen’s internationally recognized government and the Houthi militia. 
The ministry said that the Kingdom was committed to reaching a political solution that guarantees the security and stability of Yemen.
The handing over of the port of Hodeidah to the control of the United Nations will help to alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people, the ministry stressed.