Syria: Devastation of “Unrecognizable” Opposition Areas Near Damascus


“The damage in Qaboun and Tishreen is massive, and the bombardment is unrelenting”

On February 17, pro-Assad forces began an assault on three opposition-held areas east of Syria’s capital Damascus,
launching scores of surface-to-surface missiles and mortar shells. Although rebels have repelled ground attacks, the shelling is ongoing. Two weeks later, the shelling of the besieged pocket—accompanied by airstrikes—has not stopped.

Two of the three districts — Qaboun and Barzeh — agreed truces with the regime in early 2014. However, because they and Tishreen are one km from the opposition-controlled East Ghouta suburbs, the Syrian military is now looking to overrun them. Regime checkpoints are preventing food and supplies from entering, and residents from exiting the area.

Eyad Abu al-Joud, head of the Syrian Civil Defense in eastern Damascus, discusses the situation with Syria Direct’s Bahira al-Zarier:

Could you describe what Qaboun and Tishreen look like right now?

The extent of the damage is enormous. About 85 percent of Tishreen has been destroyed, plus around 60 percent of Qaboun. Residential areas have been demolished by surface-to-surface missiles.

The bombardment has not stopped. Most residents have fled to Barzeh. However, regime checkpoints surrounding the neighborhoods keep residents from leaving the area. They are sleeping in Barzeh’s streets, fields and mosques.

In addition to food and medicine, we need medical professionals to attend people’s needs.

In Tishreen, allambulances are out of commission and need major repairs before they can return to service. Qaboun and Tishreen have narrow roads, and the bombardment has led to road closures.

In Qaboun, our excavator was damaged after our team was shelled. One of the Civil Defense volunteers from our Barzeh team was killed during a rescue operation as he was searching through the rubble.

How does this recent period of bombardment in Qaboun and Tishreen compare with previous shelling in the area?

The bombardment is violent and systematic. As I see it, unlike previous attempts to pave the way for an invasion, the bombardment is now aimed at closing off tunnels and strangling East Ghouta.

The damage in Qaboun and Tishreen is massive, and the bombardment is unrelenting. It’s hard to start repairing the damages. These neighborhoods aren’t recognizable.

What sort of work is Syrian Civil Defense doing in Tishreen and Qaboun?

The Civil Defense has three centers in northeast Damascus — Barzeh, Qaboun and Tishreen. We’re carrying out rescue operations and transporting residents injured by the heavy shelling [to medical facilities]. We’re putting out fires in homes and vehicles caused by shelling throughout the neighborhoods. We’re also trying to open roads blocked by demolished buildings so that ambulances can pass.

What obstacles are Civil Defense members facing in their work, considering that the bombardment has not stopped?

We face a lot of obstacles, but it all boils down to a lack of equipment due to the siege. Regime forces closed the roads for transporting goods and equipment into the area. We’re also short of medicine and first-aid equipment.

Dozens have died and hundreds have been injured. Civil Defense members are still searching for missing persons, trying to pull out bodies buried deep under the rubble.

Every day people go missing, trapped under the ruins. We can’t reach them with the continued shelling and the damage to infrastructure. At the moment, there are 11 people missing in Qaboun and Tishreen alone.

Regime shelling of the two neighborhoods has continued for almost two weeks at this point. As a Civil Defense member, how are you able to continue your work, physically and mentally?

We, members of the Syrian Civil Defense, have a moral and humanitarian duty to the people of our country, despite the fact that we might die at any moment.

We might be injured in performing our duties. We know the risks that working with the Civil Defense entails and we chose to walk this path, despite the danger.

We must remain strong and patient in light of this fear and destruction that plague Syria and our neighborhoods, in order to help alleviate the suffering of our people.

Are there situations that the Civil Defense cannot assist with?

There are cases in which the Civil Defense is powerless to help. Sometimes, we transport injured civilians who turn out to need surgery. Medical facilities can’t perform surgical operations because of shortages of medical equipment. In several cases, these injured civilians die.

Eastern Damascus is in a terrible state. If the bombardment goes on, the area will soon be completely destroyed.

TOP PHOTO: Residents flee Tishreen on Thursday (Sitar a-Dimashqi)

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  1. Why would “regime checkpoints surrounding the neighborhoods keep residents from leaving the area”? Surely that is exactly what SAA wants, that civilians remove themselves so they can tackle the JI-Joes uninhibited?
    Sounds like a re-run of the E.Aleppo agit-prop.

    • Because targetting civilains is regime policy barbar as u well know
      Girafee neck or we burn the country …and they have

      • No, I don’t know that. It would be a militarily and politically counterproductive strategy, so I don’t know why the Syrian government would adopt it. Are you arguing Assad is irrational?

          • Even the NATO-conform fanatic Ji-Ju admits SAA has established corridors for civilians to escape E.Ghouta, exposing the now-standard ‘rebel’ lies:
            In other words, it is the JI-Joes who are preventing civilians’ escape, the better to use them as human-shields … the exact same warcrime for which they have so recently been condemned by the UNHRC re. E.Aleppo:
            65. Through intimidation, certain armed groups prevented civilians from leaving hotly
            contested districts, including al-Firdous, during the siege. By preventing civilians from
            leaving, armed groups attempted to render parts of al-Firdous immune from further attack
            by using civilians as human shields (ibid., paras. 46-47). Residents recounted how women
            were prevented from leaving al-Firdous on threat of being killed. One young woman
            recalled how armed group fighters had killed her husband when he tried to leave in late
            66. In October, as part of a humanitarian pause brokered by the United States of
            America and the Russian Federation, government forces began circulating details on
            television and via loudspeakers about a potential evacuation for civilians and fighters. Some
            armed group members warned civilians that the eight humanitarian corridors proposed were
            a pretext for the Syrian army to forcibly conscript new recruits into their ranks; for example,
            residents of al-Firdous district insisted that fear inhibited civilians from leaving,
            as armed group fighters coexisted with civilians and were “everywhere in the streets”. By
            late October, armed groups attempted to impose an 8 p.m. curfew on civilians in various
            districts throughout eastern Aleppo city in an effort to control their movements and
            to prevent their escape after dark. Civilians who decided to stay feared either retribution for
            attempting to flee or revenge by government forces once they reached areas under their
            67. In late November, before Masaken Hanano was retaken by the Syrian army, Jabhat
            Fatah al-Sham terrorists actively prevented civilians from leaving the district. The terrorist
            group arbitrarily arrested at least two civilians who attempted to negotiate the ability for
            civilians to exit, on the charge of inciting people against the terrorist group. The
            whereabouts of the two civilians remains unknown (ibid., paras. 24-30). The incident
            intimidated other civilians to the extent that no others attempted to leave Masaken Hanano
            until the Syrian army recaptured the district on 26 November.

            • What about all the hospitals deliberately targeted by the regime? How about all the bakeries? How about the chemical weapons attacks that killed scores of children? How about the targeting UN envoys that the UN directly accused the regime of attacking? How about the torture chambers ran by the regime where thousands of dissidents have been executed? Get a grip on yourself. Your statement was foolish and demonstrably false.

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