Syria Daily: 400+ Killed in East Ghouta in 5 Days — Russia Blocks Ceasefire

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Rescuers help a man from rubble, Douma. East Ghouta, Syria (Bassam Khabieh/Reuters)

“Everyone here knows this is a slaughter and a crime against humanity.”


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The death toll in East Ghouta, near Syria’s capital Damascus, has passed 400 since pro-Assad attacks escalated on Sunday.

Preparing for an invasion, the Assad regime and its foreign allies have been bombing, shelling, and rocketing the area of more than 350,000 people. Months of bombardment and more than five years of siege have been stepped up, with 22 medical facilities reportedly targeted and several put out of service.

Local sources estimate more than 2,100 people have been wounded in five days.

See also VideoCast with ABC: “Hell on Earth” — Pro-Assad Assault on East Ghouta

Auto mechanic Rafat al-Abram said on Thursday:

Seeing a father or mother wailing and crying over their dead children, or a father carrying his son who has one leg amputated, or another screaming at God and then at people to help save his family who are all lying under the rubble of a building … I try to comfort them even though I want to sit and cry with them from the horror of what is happening all around us.

Nisma al-Hatri, a teacher until schools were shut early because of the attacks, summarized:

Every day goes like this: bombings, then I clean the house from the effect of the nearby shelling, then we hide in one room, attempting to survive or die together.

My daughter Sara and I wake up with our arms around each other from the night before. We all sleep on one mattress. She hugs me and asks me why she can’t go out to play, or to school or to see her friends. I cannot answer her.

Survival of the mass killing has been hindered by difficulties in obtaining food and medicine, with scores of people dying even before the surge in the pro-Assad assault over the winter.

White Helmets volunteers rescue a man in Douma:

Russia Supports Attacks by Blocking Security Council

Russia, enabling the attacks, has blocked a UN Security Council resolution for a ceasefire.

The text, put forward by Sweden and Kuwait, called for a 30-day cessation of hostilities to allow the delivery of aid and evacuation of civilians.

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura pleaded for action and Panos Moumtzis, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Syria, said, “There is a need for avoiding a massacre, because we will be judged by history.”

But Russian UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said Moscow presented amendments for the ceasefire “to be realistic”. As White Helmets rescuers tried to save people and retrieve bodies in East Ghouta, Nebenzia accused them of being “closely affiliated with terrorist groups”.

The Assad regime’s ambassador, Bashar al-Ja’afari, accused the UN and mainstream media of backing “terrorists recruited by the US from all over the world”.

“Extermination”

Meanwhile, Mahmood Adam, a member of the White Helmets, said from East Ghouta:

We are talking about a systematic targeting of civilians in their homes, schools, medical centres, marketplaces, and civil defence sites. This is an extermination of the society in this area.

There are families who have been hiding in basements and underground shelters who haven’t seen the sun in days for fear of the brutality of the regime and the Russian warplanes.

“We don’t know whether we will be alive to tell the world what is happening in the next hour or day. The rocket launchers are relentless, and the warplanes have not left the skies….

Everyone here knows this is a slaughter and a crime against humanity. This is a war against civilians.


Turkey: We Shelled YPG Convoy; Kurdish Officials: It Was Civilians, Food, and Medicine

The Turkish military says it has struck a convoy of fighters entering the Kurdish canton of Afrin in northwest Syria, but the Kurdish militia YPG said the vehicles had civilians entering with food and medicine.

The Turkish military said in a statement that artillery targeted about 30 to 40 vehicles moving towards Afrin city and “carrying terrorists, weapons and ammunition”. It maintained, “As always all attention and sensitivity was shown so that civilians were not harmed.”

Kurdish officials said the convoy, which arrived in Afrin late Thursday, had brought hundreds of civilians from the Jazeera canton in northeast Syria. It said one passenger aws killed and at least ten wounded as cars were set on fire.

Human Rights Watch said on Friday that it investigated three attacks in Afrin last month, soon after the start of the Turkish-rebel offensive on Afrin, in which operations failed to prevent civilian casualties. Airtrikes and shelling on a cluster of tents, a poultry farm, and a house killed 26 civilians, including 17 children, HRW summarized.

Speaking to party officials on Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan denounced the US for expressing concern about civilian casualties:

You are remorseless and immoral. You don’t feel the tiniest discomfort of the massacre of hundreds of children, women and civilians every day in East Ghouta but you express your annoyance at our fight against terrorists. You are spreading fake news.

On Wednesday, Pentagon spokesperson Adrian Galloway said US authorities will “do their best in their contacts with their Turkish counterparts to reduce tensions and harm to civilians”.


US Officials: Putin Ally in Touch with Kremlin Before Russian Attack on US-Backed Kurdish Forces

Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was in close touch with the Kremlin before a failed assault by Russian fighters on a US-backed, Kurdish-led force in eastern Syria on February 8, according to American officials.

Prigozhin reportedly oversees the Wagner Group, the Russian “private military company” which has carried out some of Moscow’s ground operations in support of the Assad regime since 2013.

Reports from colleagues, doctors, and relatives indicate up to 200 Wagner fighters were killed, among 300 casualties, when about 550 personnel attacked the Syrian Democratic Forces in Deir ez-Zor Province. The attempt to take area around a gas plant was foiled by US airstrikes, the first deliberate assault on pro-Assad ground units in Syria’s 83-month conflict.

The US officials cited ntercepted communications in late January between Prigozhin and a senior Assad regime official that the Putin ally had “secured permission” from a Russian minister to move forward with a “fast and strong” initiative in early February.

See also How to Defend Russia’s “Private Military Companies” in Syria? Write a Song.

Prigozhin was one of 13 Russians indicted last week by Special Counsel Robert Mueller over Moscow’s interference in the 2016 US Presidential election.

First as a restaurateur in St. Petersburg and then as teh head of an expanding business empire, Prigozhin has been a friend and associate of Putin. The relationship has assisted Prigozhin’s large contracts with the Russian Defense Ministry.

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13 COMMENTS

  1. its not clear what you are trying to say in regards to the russian ally contacts. Is the insinuation that the attack was in coordination with Moscow?

    • It was a test of US resolve by the Kremlin. If the Kremlin did not want this test, they would not have given the green light to Prigozhin. It may have been Prigozhin’s idea. But Putin must have supported it.

  2. Russia has to be stopped. The rebels in Ghouta have stated that there are Russian planes bombing them. They would normally achieve this by listening to the pilot’s transmissions in Russian. There have been reports of this before and unless the Russians are using frequency agile radios and the rebels do not have the facility to monitor them, I see no reason to not believe the rebels. There is also the method of visual aircraft recognition and as the Russians do use more modern aircraft than the Assad gang, then there is no requirement for any equipment to be able to recognise the aircraft. It is therefore very reasonable to believe that the Russians are bombing East Ghouta
    As Russia is part of the force bombing East Ghouta there is no surprise that they veto any move for a cessation to hostilities. They are the biggest part of the problem and definitely not trying to solve it. They have the power to veto in the UN which is the equivalent of a violent criminal having overall control of a nations police force. The UN has become dysfunctional because overall control is being wielded by a war criminal nation. It is obvious that the UN cannot function all the while that the war criminal Putin has the power to veto. Either Russia has to be thrown out of the UN or another organisation has to take responsibility for maintain civilisation.

  3. One alternative to the existing impotent UN would be for NATO to intervene on the grounds that Turkey is being attacked by the Syrian regime. When Turkey are in fact attacking ‘terrorists’ which is allowable by international law. Whether one sees Turkey attacking the YPG as valid is another big subject but Turkey have in fact been fighting Kurdish terrorists for decades. As Turkey is being attacked, NATO is obliged to assist. This does also involve the complication that the USA has armed the very terrorists that Turkey is attacking but does not prevent action.
    Another alternative is for a singular country to simply use military force in the form of aircraft to prevent the assault on East Ghouta. This could be done by France, Israel or the UK and would be hastily backed up by other countries once one has taken the lead.
    There is no excuse for all of this handwringing and demands for a political settlement that will never happen. Putin and Assad only understand deceit and violence; the only way to end this hell on earth is military intervention.

  4. “You are remorseless and immoral. You don’t feel the tiniest discomfort of the massacre of hundreds of children, women and civilians every day in East Ghouta but you express your annoyance at our fight against terrorists.” — Tayyip 1, Trump 0. Tayyip is right to call out the US for its lack of concern regarding the massacres of civilians in the Damascus areas and Idlib. This also applies to France, Germany, UK, UN, India and all democracies — but the US in particular should be blamed. Not that Tayyip has any better morals than a gnat. But he is right to call out the democracies — in fact he maliciously wishes to tarnish liberal democracy – but that is another issue. And no, even the neo-Marxist Kurds are not terrorists.

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