1,000 killed, 4,800 injured in 2 weeks of bombing of Ghouta near Damascus, MSF says
1,000 killed, 4,800 injured in 2 weeks of bombing of Ghouta near Damascus, MSF says
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.
First Russia air strikes hit south Syria as assault looms
- Russia, the United States, and Jordan agreed in July of last year on a de-escalation zone in rebel-controlled parts of southern Syria that would tamp down hostilities there
- Intense Russian air strikes are hitting towns in Daraa’s eastern countryside for the first time since the cease-fire was agreed in southern Syria last year
BEIRUT: Russia bombed rebel-held parts of southern Syria late Saturday for the first time since brokering a cease-fire there nearly a year ago, a monitor group said, as allied regime troops prepare a ground assault.
Southern Syria is a strategic prize for local and global players involved in the country’s convoluted seven-year war.
After securing the capital Damascus, Syrian President Bashar Assad appears keen to recapture the southern provinces of Daraa and Sweida, still mostly held by rebels.
He has sent military reinforcements there for weeks, dropped flyers demanding rebels surrender, and escalated bombardment in recent days.
Late Saturday night, his Russian allies bombed rebel-held towns in Daraa for the first time since the summer of 2017, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“Intense Russian air strikes are hitting towns in Daraa’s eastern countryside for the first time since the cease-fire was agreed in southern Syria last year,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
The Observatory said the warplanes used Saturday — based on type, location, munitions and flight patterns — had come from the Russian-operated Hmeimim base in coastal Syria.
The Britain-based monitor said at least 25 Russian strikes hit the rebel zones but did not have any casualty figures.
Russia, the United States, and Jordan agreed in July of last year on a de-escalation zone in rebel-controlled parts of southern Syria that would tamp down hostilities there.
Since then, Moscow’s warplanes — active in Syria since 2015 — had refrained from bombing rebel positions in the south.
But violence has been ratcheting up this week as Syrian government forces look to retake the south militarily.
Forces loyal to Assad began ramping up their air strikes and artillery fire on the zone on Tuesday.
At least 19 civilians in rebel-held zones have died since then, according to the Observatory.
Several civilians have also been killed in opposition fire on government zones, with state news agency SANA reporting Saturday that two civilians were killed in Daraa city in rebel shelling.
Some 12,000 people have been displaced from Daraa province in recent days, the Observatory said, with many seeking refuge in poorly-equipped displacement camps further west.
The United Nations has warned that growing violence is putting the lives of 750,000 people in rebel parts of the south in danger.
On Saturday, regime forces took two villages in Daraa province, their first ground gains after days of bombardment, the Observatory said.
“The Russian strikes started around 10:30pm local time (1930 GMT) and stopped after midnight,” said Ibrahim Mohammad, a media activist in the battered rebel town of Busr Al-Harir in Daraa.
He said he and other residents had taken to their basements and bomb shelters as soon as they heard the planes, describing a steady thud of bombardment for nearly two hours.
In an effort to avoid a deadly offensive, international powers are holding talks aimed at reaching a negotiated settlement for Syria’s south.
“All sides should seize the opportunity to negotiate a deal for the conditional return of the Syrian state to the south west and avert a military conclusion that, for all sides and the local population, would be a worse outcome,” wrote the International Crisis Group think tank last week.
“The US, Russia and Jordan, which brokered a south-western cease-fire in 2017, should urgently extend that truce in preparation for a broader settlement,” the report added.
Earlier this month, Assad said contacts were ongoing between Russia, the United States and Israel over the southern front.
“We are giving the political talks a chance, but if they fail, there will be no choice but liberation by force,” he said.
The regime has retaken large parts of Syria from the opposition since Russia intervened militarily on its side in 2015.