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
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.