1,000 killed, 4,800 injured in 2 weeks of bombing of Ghouta near Damascus, MSF says

Syrian and Russian soldiers and officers accompany journalists on a press tour at a newly-opened crossing in the southern tip of the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta enclave linking the town of Jisreen to the government-controlled suburbs of the capital Damascus on March 8, 2018. / AFP / LOUAI BESHARA
Updated 09 March 2018

1,000 killed, 4,800 injured in 2 weeks of bombing of Ghouta near Damascus, MSF says

LONDON: Medical facilities supported by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) have received over 1,000 dead and 4,800 wounded in Syria's rebel-held Eastern Ghouta in just two weeks, the organisation said in a statement.
There group said the figures date back to the start of Ghouta attacks and covers the period from February 18, until March 4 are an “underestimate" the statement said.  
Fifteen out of 20 MSF-supported facilities set up in Damascus suburb have been shelled or bombed in the continuing government offensive, according to MSF. "MSF urgently repeats its call for an immediate ceasefire to be implemented and for medical supplies to be allowed into the besieged area to treat the sick and wounded," the organisation said.

Earlier Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that more than 13 syrians were killed in renewed government airstrikes and bombardment of various town in eastern Ghouta. The London-based human rights group said that more than 900 Syrians had been killed in Eastern Ghouta since the Assad regime renewed its efforts to take control of this suburb of the capital damascus, an area where early protests against the government began more than seven years ago. 

A UN resolution calling for a humanitarian truce in the Damascus suburb has failed to take hold, despite repeated calls to Russian President Vladimir Putin to help stop the onslaught. 
A top UN aid official appealed to the Syrian government and its Russian backers for a cessation of hostilities in eastern Ghouta on Thursday when a second convoy with desperately needed aid was postponed after government forces split the enclave in two, creating an evolving, unpredictable situation on the ground.
Jan Egeland said it is “impossible” to deliver aid to the rebel-held eastern suburbs of Damascus amid the current fighting, which he described as the worst ever.
“I’m very worried for a repeat of very many of the bad things we saw in the final days of the battle of Aleppo but to some extent this is worse,” he told The Associated Press in an interview from Oslo, Norway.

Recapturing eastern Ghouta, a short drive away from the Syrian capital, would mark the biggest victory yet for President Bashar Assad in the seven year war. It would also be the worst setback for rebels since the opposition was ousted from eastern Aleppo in late 2016 after a similar siege and bombing campaign.

Eastern Ghouta is larger and more populated, with some 400,000 people believed to be living there, trapped under a relentless air and ground bombardment and a crippling years-long siege. More than 900 people have been killed just in the past three weeks.

In rapid advances overnight, troops and allied militiamen seized more than half of the area, including a stretch of farmland, isolating the northern and southern parts of the territory, cutting links between the rebels and further squeezing opposition fighters and civilians trapped inside, state media and a war monitor reported.
Videos released by the opposition’s volunteer rescue group, also known as the White Helmets, captured the inferno in eastern Ghouta, including a shell exploding as an ambulance sped through the street after loading in an apparently wounded person.

The most densely populated areas in eastern Ghouta are still under rebel control, including the towns of Douma, Harasta, Kfar Batna, Saqba and Hammouriyeh. As government troops bombed their way into the town of Beit Sawa on Wednesday, many terrorized civilians fled east to the towns of Arbeen and Hammouriyeh.
“The fact is we have seen possibly the worst fighting ever in eastern Ghouta in these last 24 hours and in that kind of situation you cannot deliver anything,” Egeland said. “It is impossible to cross into the frontline and to go in to help desperate civilians, women and children that we know are on the starvation point.”
Egeland said there are intensive diplomatic efforts for a humanitarian pause that would lead to the evacuation of 1,000 priority cases for medical treatment and expressed hope that another convoy would be able to make its way there Friday. He called on the Syrian government and Russia as the stronger parties, but also on countries that have influence over the armed rebel groups, to secure a period of calm.
Egeland also confirmed there are talks between the parties on the possible evacuation of fighters and civilians which he said aid workers are not party to.

Turkey says it will not let the US hold it back in Syria

Updated 17 December 2018

Turkey says it will not let the US hold it back in Syria

  • Turkey said it would launch a new operation within days against the US-backed Syrian Kurdish YPG militia
  • Relations between the two NATO allies have long been strained by Syria policy

ISTANBUL: Turkey pledged on Monday to press ahead with plans to target a Kurdish militia in northern Syria, brushing off what it said were American efforts to stymie Turkish military operations east of the Euphrates.
President Tayyip Erdogan said last week that Turkey would launch a new operation within days against the US-backed Syrian Kurdish YPG militia in northern Syria. The Pentagon expressed grave concern and said unilateral military action there by any party would be “unacceptable.”
Relations between the two NATO allies have long been strained by Syria policy. The United States has backed the YPG against Daesh fighters. Ankara, however, sees the YPG as terrorists tied to PKK militants who have fought an insurgency in southeast Turkey for 34 years.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said Washington had tried to hold Turkey back during two operations in Syria in the last two years against Daesh and the YPG, which controls swathes of Syria’s northern border region.
“The United States thought it could deter us with the men it has nurtured,” he said during a visit to Pakistan, state-owned news agency Anadolu reported. “Now, they will try to hold us back east of the Euphrates. Turkey did not, and will not, allow that.”
Turkey has not yet launched an operation east of the Euphrates but has kept up regular air strikes against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants based in Iraq’s mountains.
Baghdad summoned Turkey’s ambassador to Iraq on Friday after Ankara said it killed eight PKK fighters. But Turkish warplanes have since carried out further strikes.
On Monday, Turkey’s defense ministry said air strikes on Sunday targeted northern Iraq’s Gara and Hakurk areas and “neutralized” seven militants preparing to attack Turkish bases.
Erdogan has said Turkish forces will enter the Syrian town of Manbij, west of the Euphrates, if the United States does not remove YPG fighters there and will also target the eastern side, where the YPG controls an area stretching more than 400 km (250 miles) along the border toward Iraq.
On Sunday he vowed again to maintain attacks on militants.
“We are always in the heads of the terrorists. We are burying them in the ditches they dig. We will continue to bury them,” he said in a rally in Istanbul.
“Terrorists will cease to be an affliction for my nation,” he said. “Together with God’s permission we are making those who attack our homeland and borders pay the price.”
The United States has set up observation posts on the Syrian border, saying they will deter security threats against Turkey coming from Syria. It has warned Turkey against a new incursion.