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.”


Iran, US tension is a ‘clash of wills’: Guards commander

Updated 23 May 2019
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Iran, US tension is a ‘clash of wills’: Guards commander

  • The commander said they will have a “hard, crushing and obliterating response” for their enemies
  • Tensions between Iran and US escalated after Trump restored sanctions

GENEVA: The standoff between Iran and the United States is a “clash of wills,” a senior commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards said on Thursday, suggesting any enemy “adventurism” would meet a crushing response, Fars news agency reported.
Tensions have spiked between the two countries after Washington sent more military forces to the Middle East in a show of force against what US officials say are Iranian threats to its troops and interests in the region.
“The confrontation and face-off of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the malicious government of America is the arena for a clash of wills,” Iran’s armed forces chief of staff Major General Mohammad Baqeri said.
He pointed to a battle during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war where Iran was victorious and said the outcome could be a message that Iran will have a “hard, crushing and obliterating response” for any enemy “adventurism.”
On Sunday, US President Donald Trump tweeted: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!“
Trump restored US sanctions on Iran last year and tightened them this month, ordering all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil or face sanctions of their own.
Trump wants Iran to come to the negotiating table to reach a new deal with more curbs on its nuclear and missile programs.
Reiterating Iran’s stance, the spokesman for its Supreme National Security Council said on Thursday that “There will not be any negotiations between Iran and America.”
Keyvan Khosravi was also quoted as saying by the state broadcaster that some officials from several countries have visited Iran recently, “mostly representing the United States.”
He did not elaborate, but the foreign minister of Oman, which in the past helped pave the way for negotiations between Iran and the United States, visited Tehran on Monday.
“Without exception, the message of the power and resistance of the Iranian nation was conveyed to them,” he said.
In Berlin, a German diplomatic source told Reuters that Jens Ploetner, a political director in Germany’s Foreign Ministry, was in Tehran on Thursday for meetings with Iranian officials to try to preserve the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and cool tensions in the region.