SUMMARY: Activists on Tuesday report that the humanitarian crisis in the West Ghouta town of Moadamiyyat Ash Sham — hit by the August 21 chemical weapons attacks and under an extensive regime siege — is continuing amid intensified artillery fire and aerial bombardments targeting residential areas.
Footage from Tuesday morning shows deserted streets in Moadamiyyat Ash Sham, as regime forces from Assad’s 4th Armored Division — led by Bashar Al Assad’s brother, Maher — shell the town:
The regime imposed a harsh siege on the town on November 25, 2012 after it lost the neighboring town of Darayya to opposition forces. Around 12,000 civilians remain in Moadamiyyat Ash Sham out of an original population of around 32,000. As well as an acute shortage of food and medicines, the town is suffering from a serious water shortage after regime forces blocked the water supply.
Shelling on Moadamiyyat Ash Sham on Tuesday:
Why is the regime focussing so much firepower against Moadamiyyat Ash Sham? The main reason is that the opposition-held town is surrounded by key regime military strongholds. It is right next to the Mezzeh Military Airport, the site of fierce fighting between regime and insurgent fighters, and just south of the 4th Armored Division base, Sumarieh residences, and the police housing.
According to the Violations Documentation Center (VDC), Moadamiyyat Ash Sham is bordered to the east by the El Mashrou`a neighborhood, inhabited mostly by Air Force Intelligence officers. To the west, it’s borders the Youssef al- Admeh residences and the Saraya Elsera military brigades.
The VDC cites Ameer, a relief activist, who explains that, “In May 2012, regime forces installed military checkpoints at the outlets of the city. They crippled the movement of civilians leaving the city and sometimes blocked it completely. We used to find bodies of civilians on a daily basis thrown on the Damascus-Quneitra highway locally known as the fortieth highway or Death Road. Those bodies were for those who were arrested and executed haphazardly by troops manning these checkpoints.”
The UK’s Channel 4 interviewed local translator and activist Qusay Zakaria, who assisted the UN chemical weapons team. Zakaria said that he is trapped inside Moadamiyyat Ash Sham warned that if the international community does not act quickly, he and other residents who remain in the town will starve to death. Zakaria added that residents fear that if Assad’s forces succeed in overrunning the town, they will massacre civilians.