‘It’s not a war. It’s a massacre’: scores killed in Syrian enclave

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “‘It’s not a war. It’s a massacre’: scores killed in Syrian enclave” was written by Kareem Shaheen in Istanbul, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 20th February 2018 15.24 Asia/Kolkata

More than 100 people have been killed and hundreds wounded on a day of “hysterical” violence in the opposition-controlled enclave of eastern Ghouta in Syria.

The surge in the killing came amid reports of an impending regime incursion into the area outside Damascus, which is home to 400,000 civilians. More than 700 people have been killed in three months, according to local counts, not including the deaths in the last week.

Four hospitals were also bombed on Monday in eastern Ghouta, which was once the breadbasket of Damascus but has been under siege for years by the government of Bashar al-Assad and subjected to devastating chemical attacks.

“We are standing before the massacre of the 21st century,” said a doctor in eastern Ghouta. “If the massacre of the 1990s was Srebrenica, and the massacres of the 1980s were Halabja and Sabra and Shatila, then eastern Ghouta is the massacre of this century right now.”

Where is it and why is it important?

Eastern Ghouta is a rebel-held enclave that borders the city of Damascus. Once a breadbasket of the Syrian capital, since 2013 it has been under a siege that has tightened severely over the last year. In 2013 the area was targeted in a chemical attack by the Syrian regime that killed more than a thousand civilians and nearly prompted a US intervention in the war.

Who controls it?

The enclave is controlled by a mix of rebel groups dominated by the Islamist leaning Jaysh al-Islam, though the day-to-day affairs of the towns in the area are run by local civilian councils.

How bad is the humanitarian situation?

The situation is catastrophic for the 400,000 civilians who still live in Eastern Ghouta. Prices for basic foodstuffs have skyrocketed and medical supplies are mostly absent because of the siege. Treating the injured is especially difficult because of the repeated bombing of hospitals and clinics.

An estimated 700 civilians have been killed in the area in the last three months alone, not including those killed over the last week of escalation.

The first aid convoy to the region in months arrived a week ago but did not do much to alleviate the suffering.

 

He added: “A little while ago a child came to me who was blue in the face and barely breathing, his mouth filled with sand. I emptied it with my hands. I don’t think they had what we do in any of the medical textbooks. A wounded child breathing with lungs of sand. You get a child, a year old, that they saved from the rubble and is breathing sand, and you don’t know who he is.

“All these humanitarian and rights organisations, all that is nonsense. So is terrorism. What is a greater terrorism than killing civilians with all sorts of weapons? Is this a war? It’s not a war. It’s called a massacre.”

Smoke rises from buildings following bombardment on the village of Mesraba in the rebel-held besieged eastern Ghouta region.
Smoke rises from buildings following bombardment on the village of Mesraba in the rebel-held besieged eastern Ghouta region.
Photograph: Hamza Al-Ajweh/AFP/Getty Images

The death toll of at least 110 in a single day by local counts encapsulated the unbridled violence of the war in Syria. After seven years and interventions by regional and global powers, the humanitarian crisis has heightened instead of abating, as forces loyal to Assad’s regime and his Russian and Iranian backers seek an outright military victory instead of a negotiated political settlement.
Aid workers said the latest violence in eastern Ghouta, where 1,300 people died in 2013 after the Assad regime deployed sarin gas, has included the use of notorious barrel bombs. The weapons are so inaccurate that their use is seen as a war crime by human rights watchdogs. The regime has also used fighter jets and artillery bombardment, on top of the punishing siege.

“The situation in eastern Ghouta is akin to the day of judgment,” said Mounir Mustafa, the deputy director of the White Helmets, the volunteer group that rescues people from under the rubble of bombed buildings.

The White Helmets said one of its volunteers, Firas Juma, died on Monday while responding to a bombing.

Medical organisations said at least four clinics and hospitals, including a maternity centre, were bombed on Monday, some of them multiple times, putting them out of service. An anaesthetist was killed in the attacks.

“The bombing was hysterical,” said Ahmed al-Dbis, a security official at the Union of Medical and Relief Organisations (UOSSM), which runs dozens of hospitals in areas controlled by the opposition in Syria. “It is a humanitarian catastrophe in every sense of the word. The mass killing of people who do not have the most basic tenets of life.”

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'It's not a war. It's a massacre': scores killed in Syrian enclave | NORTH INDIA KALEIDOSCOPE

Rajesh Ahuja

I am a veteran journalist based in Chandigarh India.I joined the profession in June 1982 and worked as a Staff Reporter with the National Herald at Delhi till June 1986. I joined The Hindu at Delhi in 1986 as a Staff Reporter and was promoted as Special Correspondent in 1993 and transferred to Chandigarh. I left The Hindu in September 2012 and launched my own newspaper ventures including this news portal and a weekly newspaper NORTH INDIA KALEIDOSCOPE (currently temporarily suspended).