Syria Daily: UN — People in Besieged East Ghouta Face “Complete Catastrophe”

Malnourished twins Safa and Marwa with their mother in the Hazzeh area in East Ghouta, October 25, 2017 (Reuters)

UN’s Egeland: “We cannot continue like this”


The UN has warned that almost 400,000 people in the besieged East Ghouta area, near Syria’s capital Damascus, face
“complete catastrophe”.

Jan Egeland, the senior UN official for humanitarian operations, said on Thursday that seven people have died because they were not evacuated and another 29, including 18 children, are at imminent risk.

Residents face malnutrition and even starvation because, despite a Russian-declared “de-escalation zone”, the Assad regime has continued attacks and tightened the four-year siege of East Ghouta, including the key town of Douma. Pro-Assad forces closed the last tunnel into the area in March, and in July shut down the remaining checkpoint with movement of food and supplies. Apart from one convoy of 40 trucks last week, on the opening days of political talks in the Kazakh capital Astana, the Assad regime has denied permission for aid deliveries.

Doctors have said that one person per day is dying from siege-related conditions, and the UN has estimated 1,500 children are in danger.

“I feel as if we are now returning to some of the bleakest days of this conflict again,” Egeland said. “Nowhere is it as bad as in Eastern Ghouta.” He cited a “bureaucratic wall of inaction” for the “completely sealed off” area:

We cannot continue like that. If we only get a fraction of what is needed, it will be a complete catastrophe. What about a ceasefire now in this area and a green light to all medical evacuations?

Without directly referring the Assad regime, the UN official said, “Why men in their 50s and 60s like me stop women and children from getting the medical service that would save their lives is beyond my imagination. It can change tomorrow.”

Egeland implicitly pressed Moscow to get movement from the Assad regime for both Eat Ghouta and about 55,000 displaced Syrians in the Rukban camps, near the Jordanian border, who have been cut off since June:

The first meeting still hasn’t produced at all the concrete results that were needed but it is our strong feeling that the Russian Federation wants us to get the access and wants to help us so we are hopeful that this trilateral mechanism will yield results.

Regime Declares Victory over ISIS

The Assad regime’s army declared victory over the Islamic State on Thursday, following the capture of the last town held by ISIS in Syria.

Earliter this week pro-Assad forces took over al-Bukamal in Deir ez-Zor Province on the Syria-Iraq border. Army officials said fighting continues in the nearby desert. A commander summarized

There’s some fighters left but they’re few. Small numbers is all I can say. Some were killed and some ran away. They went toward eastern or northern villages.

The Islamic State has now lost all major positions taken since late 2013 across northern and eastern Syria, after a combination of assaults by pro-Assad, Kurdish-led, and rebel forces.

The most recent advances have been in Deir ez-Zor Province, with pro-Assad units and the Kurdish-led, US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces racing each other to take strategic areas. After breaking the three-year ISIS siege on the divided Deir ez-Zor city, the pro-Assad offensive completed the capture last month and moved along the Euphrates River to the north and south. The SDF have gained oilfields, but are likely to face pressure from the regime and its Russian and Iranian allies to give them up.

See Syria Daily, Nov 9: Iran — Assad Regime Will Retake Areas from Kurds, Opposition

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Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.


  1. Another flawed OPCW report claims chemical attack in Lataminah in Hama province:

    “As it was unable to visit the location of the alleged incident shortly after the incident, the FFM interviewed a variety of witnesses, including casualties and treating medical staff, and received environmental samples, including munition parts, in a neighbouring country. ”

    “Given limitations in some of the evidence, the FFM has not been able to determine with absolute certainty the use of a chemical weapon.”

    • Here’s the full quote in context, with no indication of “flawed”:

      Given limitations in some of the evidence, the FFM has not been able to determine with absolute certainty the use of a chemical weapon. Nevertheless, sufficient facts were collected to allow the FFM to determine:

      (a) the presence of sarin on samples which came from the alleged site of the incident;
      (b) that casualties from that site and time period displayed symptoms and received treatment consistent with exposure to sarin; and

      (c) that munition parts from the alleged site of the incident were consistent with application in a chemical weapon.

      1.5 Therefore, the FFM is able to conclude that sarin was more than likely used as a chemical weapon on 30 March 2017 in the south of Ltamenah.

      • Yet again, the OPCW did not visit the town – they relied on third parties for the collection of materials.

        This bizarre statement is included in the report:

        “Witnesses describe being in nearby caves at the time of the passing plane and subsequent
        detonations. None of the witnesses interviewed saw the planes drop munitions in their area.”

        • You really need to stop cherry-picking and lifting sentences from context to put out your line. FFM clearly set out that witnesses heard the attack, although they were in the caves:

          *On 30 March 2017 at approximately 06:00, witnesses reported, roughly 500 metres from the town of Ltamenah in the southern outskirts, the sound of a jet aeroplane followed by the sounds from four air delivered munitions.

          5.13 Witnesses describe being in nearby caves at the time of the passing plane and subsequent detonations. None of the witnesses interviewed saw the planes drop munitions in their area.

          5.14 The third detonation had a different, quieter, characteristic than the other three, with no odour and associated smoke being unlike other attacks. At the time of the incident this location was near the confrontation lines.

          5.15 Witnesses describe that upon exiting caves, people were shouting and “falling down”. Casualties were shaking, shivering, foaming and becoming increasingly unresponsive.

          Attempts were made to rescue and evacuate casualties by witnesses and by others. Witnesses describe how rescuers also started falling down, before they also lost consciousness. The witnesses estimate the time between exposure and loss of consciousness as ranging from approximately 5 minutes in one case to around 30 minutes in another.


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