The Syrian government disregards UN Security Council Resolution 2401 (2018) and continues its military campaign on Eastern Ghouta

The Syrian government disregards UN Security Council Resolution 2401 (2018) and continues its military campaign on Eastern Ghouta
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The Suwar Team

February 27, 2018


"I lost two of my students. One was in the first grade and the other in the third grade, in addition to three heads of departments in the Department of Education. We are unable to estimate the number of missing children, as we are still hiding in shelters and no one is able to save those who are trapped under rubble.”


This is how Ms. Maha Akasheh, who works at the all-Baraem Educational Foundation that deals with women's and children's issues in the city of Kafarbatna in Eastern Ghouta, describes the situation in Eastern Ghouta, which has recently been witnessing the most violent military campaigns against its civilians.


Eastern Ghouta has been hit with barrel bombs in addition to chlorine gas, while its civilians are silently facing death after having been denied access to food and humanitarian aid. In addition, the area, which has been under siege since 2013, is the southeastern entrance to Damascus, and one of the last remaining opposition strongholds near the capital. It directly overlooks the road leading to Damascus International Airport. It also overlooks roads leading directly to the provinces of Daraa and Suweida, towards the Jordanian border to the south, as well as the Iraqi border to the east.


International forces are fighting for control of Ghouta, using almost all the available weapons they have. At times the area witnesses a siege, while at other times a destructive bombardment that leaves no trace of its houses and infrastructure such as schools, hospitals, power stations, shops as well as water networks and treatment plants.


Alaa al-Ahmad, a journalist and chairman of the Damascus Media Office in Eastern Ghouta, told Suwar that, "The Syrian government has used internationally banned weapons, such as incendiary bombs, to hit civilians in the towns of Arabin and Hamouria. This attack was documented by video footage.”


The Ceasefire Resolution:


After days of heavy shelling on Eastern Ghouta, the United Nation Security Council (UNSC) adopted Resolution 2401, which calls for a 30-day ceasefire by all sides. The ceasefire was in effect for only two hours. The Syrian government violated the ceasefire almost immediately by launching at least six shells on the towns of Harasta and Duma. This breach was confirmed by civilians on the ground in Eastern Ghouta.


"The Syrian government did not abide by UNSC Resolution 2401 which called for a ceasefire, the entry of humanitarian aid and the evacuation of serious medical cases from Eastern Ghouta," al-Ahmad told Suwar. "Instead, the Syrian government has launched a ground assault on al-Ghouta from five directions – namely Jubar, Harasta, Zariqiyeh, Shifuniyeh and Muhammadiyeh – supported by heavy military aircraft as well as armoured vehicles.”



Humanitarian Situation:


From what was mentioned above, one can get a picture of the situation in Eastern Ghouta following the bombardment and subsequent destruction. Houses and buildings have been completely destroyed, movement has become nonexistent and the streets are completely devoid of human voices. The only sounds that can be heard are those of missiles, bombs and rockets.


“The situation has been very tense in Ghouta for more than a month. The shelling does not cease to hit civilians, neither at night nor during the day," said Ms. Akasheh. “The education system has been completely stopped as a result of the systematic targeting of schools by the Syrian government. We’ve lost many of our personnel as well as students due to this vicious campaign that began 10 days ago." She adds, "Our educational centers and institutions have been either partially or completely destroyed. People live in underground shelters, and we can’t even go out to see the sun. Everyone is afraid and suffering from hunger."


In a press statement issued by the Huras Network, which provides psychosocial support services in the town of Darya near Damascus, it announced the suspension of its activities and programs in Eastern Ghouta. "In the past few days, the towns and villages of Eastern Ghouta have witnessed a serious escalation by the Syrian government and its allies. The area has been declared a disaster area. Accordingly, we suspended our activities, starting from Sunday, February 18, 2018, until further notice. A considerable number of rockets have targeted points near our office in the town of Duma, and near a child-friendly area in the towns of Beit Sawa and Misraba as well."


Hussam Halima, an Eastern Ghouta resident, co-founder of the Unified Relief Office who works with the revolutionary leadership in Damascus and its suburbs, told Suwar that he currently lives with his family in a “…shelter, which is a basement of a building. Residents can’t move around, and shops were destroyed." Halima explained that, “…even shops that haven’t been destroyed are empty, closed and cannot be opened by their owners, even if there are products to sell.”



He added that the situation of residents hiding in basements is dire. Some families have not eaten for more than three days. Those who had stored food supplies in their homes have shared them with their neighbors, while others eat only bread.


According to al-Ahmad, Eastern Ghouta has a population of roughly 365,000, all of whom are currently living in underground shelters. Some people have not been able to have more than one meal in a 72-hour period, due to the closure of shops.


Relief organizations:


As a result of nearly five years of siege, along with constant bombardment, the basic necessities of life have almost vanished. Halima stated that if the ceasefire had been implemented, it would have had a positive impact on organizations and institutions operating in Eastern Ghouta. But the ceasefire has not been observed and the shelling continues.


"There are many institutions and organizations, but they are unable to operate well, as there is a severe shortage of food, in addition to the many challenges they face while carrying out any relief projects due to the constant bombing as well as the difficulty of movement," he explained.


However, according to al-Ahmad, there is an additional cause which hinders those organizations. "Relief institutions in Eastern Ghouta provide food aid as well as milk to children. While in our case, we have the finances, but there is no access to food because of the imposed siege," he said.


Health status:


On February 25, 2018, the Health Directorate of the Interim Government’s Ministry of Health announced that it had received a number of medical cases from the town of Shifuniye showing clinical respiratory disorders, agitation, dizziness and irritation in the mucous membranes and eyes, confirming that they had been affected by chlorine gas.


"The Syrian government’s military campaign over the past nine days has resulted in 500 casualties and 3,500 wounded. Additionally, over 20 medical centers have permanently been closed, while the remaining ones lack first aid supplies, medicines, medical supplies and equipment,” al-Ahmad explained.


Furthermore, Halima told Suwar that, “The health situation is deteriorating significantly in basements, as the majority of them are not adequately prepared for such crises. Cases of lice have begun to spread among children, as basements have no ventilation or light and are rarely warm.”


Eastern Ghouta's besieged citizens are now afraid that an Aleppo scenario will be repeated in Eastern Ghouta – when Aleppo was under the control of Syrian opposition armed groups – if the Syrian government is not pressured to stop its assault and commit to the ceasefire, so that aid can enter the area and civilians and the wounded can be rescued.



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