Syria Daily: Almost 100 Killed in East Ghouta as Pro-Assad Assault Builds

A child wounded in pro-Assad attacks on East Ghouta near Damascus, February 19, 2018

Pro-Assad forces “shooting everything that moves inside the residential areas”



Unfolding Little Shrouds in East Ghouta —- A Scene from the Mass Killing of Civilians
How Pro-Assad and Russian Agitators Feed Disinformation Into the Mainstream

UPDATE 1900 GMT: Reports indicated another 100 people have been killed in East Ghouta today by pro-Assad attacks.

In Beit Sawa, where 18 people were slain on Monday, another 27 died today.

Image of a large bomb on Hamouriya:

HAMOURIYA 20-02-18

An East Ghouta doctor summarizes:

We are standing before the massacre of the 21st century. If the massacre of the 1990s was Srebrenica, and the massacres of the 1980s were Halabja and Sabra and Shatila, then eastern Ghouta is the massacre of this century right now.

A little while ago a child came to me who was blue in the face and barely breathing, his mouth filled with sand. I emptied it with my hands. I don’t think they had what we do in any of the medical textbooks. A wounded child breathing with lungs of sand. You get a child, a year old, that they saved from the rubble and is breathing sand, and you don’t know who he is.

All these humanitarian and rights organisations, all that is nonsense. So is terrorism. What is a greater terrorism than killing civilians with all sorts of weapons? Is this a war? It’s not a war. It’s called a massacre.

UPDATE 1330 GMT: Pro-opposition activist Firas Abdullah from East Ghouta:

Pro-opposition activists are confirming Russian involvement in airstrikes:

Preparing for their invasion of East Ghouta near Syria’s capital Damascus, pro-Assad forces killed almost 100 people on Monday.

Returning to the intense bombardment in which at least 230 people were slain and more than 800 injured in six days at the start of February, the Assad regime and its allies bombed, shelled, and rocketed across the besieged area, including towns such as Hamouriyeh, Saqba, Otaya, and Jisreen.

The White Helmets civil defense said that 20 people were killed and dozens wounded in Hammouriyeh alone. An estimated 325 people were injured across East Ghouta, in which almost 400,000 people live.

Panos Moumtzis, the UN regional coordinator for Syria, said an “extreme escalation in hostilities” had killed at least 40 civilians and injured more than 150 yesterday: “The humanitarian situation of civilians in East Ghouta is spiraling out of control. Many residents have little choice but to take shelter in basements and underground bunkers with their children.”

Regime planes are “shooting everything that moves inside the residential areas”, a local doctor said. “Our hospitals are overcrowded with wounded. We are running out of anaesthetics and other essential medications.”

Local activist Mazen al-Shami said, “Each minute between 20-30 shells are falling on the residential areas, especially in Hamouriyeh and Saqba.”

A nurse tweets from inside the threatened territory:

Russia Prepares to Bomb

Russia has not yet broken its “de-escalation” agreement with rebels, signed last July, but Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov indicated on Monday that Russian warplanes will soon provide the strikes essential to a pro-Assad advance.

Lavrov referred to Russia’s siege and destruction of eastern Aleppo city in 2016, with the area of Syria’s largest city finally capitulating in December 2016, as a precedent: “[We can] deploy our experience of freeing Aleppo…in the eastern Ghouta situation.”

Moscow is likely to use the pretext that it is necessary to attack “Jabhat al-Nusra”, the Islamist faction formerly linked with Al Qa’eda — even though the group has few fighters in East Ghouta.

Lavrov defied the reality to declare that “armed provocations” by Nusra had created a crisis in East Ghouta.

A pro-opposition activist said the Russian airstrikes have already begun:

The Assad regime has besieged East Ghouta since 2012, tightening the cut-off since early 2017 with scores of people dying from lack of food and medicine. The UN has called the situation a “catastrophe”, with almost 12% of children under 5 suffering from malnutrition.

Despite the siege and regular bombardment, pro-Assad forces have struggled for months to advance on the ground.

State Media Silent But Says 7 Killed in Damascus

Syrian State news agency SANA is silent about the toll in East Ghouta. Instead, it declares seven civilians were killed and 35 were injured by shelling on and near Damascus on Tuesday.

A police official said rockets and mortar shells fell near al-Tahrir and Umawyeen Squares, killing six and injuring 29.

Another police official said one person was killed and six injured in the suburb of Jaramana.

Reports: Turkish Warning Shots Push Pro-Assad Troops Out of Kurdish City of Afrin

Reports are circulating that pro-Assad troops have been pushed out of the mainly-Kurdish city of Afrin, in northwest Syria, after warning fire by Turkish forces.

Syrian State TV showed a convoy of pro-Assad militias and troops entering the Afrin canton on Tuesday.

However, soon after assertions that scores of fighters had reached Afrin city, State TV claimed that Turkish troops were shelling the entrance. Turkish State-run Anadolu Agency said that the pro-Assad forces retreated about 10 km (6 miles).

Pro-opposition activists said the main convoy was shelled southeast of Afrin near Ziyarah village (see map), although a “vanguard” reached the city.

Claims have spread since Sunday that Kurdish officials reached agreement to allow the pro-Assad forces into the canton to help check a Turkish-rebel offensive. However, the Kurdish militia YPG denied the reports, with apparent disputes over regime conditions such as the handover of arms and conscription of men into pro-Assad units.

Pro-Assad units moving from Nubl and al-Zahraa in Aleppo Province:

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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.


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