The Assad regime and Russia renewed airstrikes on Friday on besieged and bombarded East Ghouta, near Syria’s capital Damascus, soon after a small aid delivery was allowed into the area.
After a brief pause in the five-week assault that has killed at 1,300 people and wounded thousands more, the regime-Russian strikes hit Douma, the center of the opposition enclave with more than 350,000 residents.
Earlier in the day, 13 trucks were allowed into East Ghouta. Earlier in the week, a convoy of 46 trucks — only the third permitted by the regime since last summer — entered the territory, but 70% of its medical supplies were stripped and it was disrupted by pro-Assad attacks on Douma, with only half the food delivered.
The assistance on Friday was enough for just 12,000 people.
NOW: Our team with @SYRedCrescent @UN getting ready to enter Douma #EasternGhouta to deliver the remaining of aid that wasn’t offloaded during our previous convoy on 5th March. 13 trucks including 2400 food parcels for 12,000 people and 3240 flour bags. #syria
— ICRC Syria (@ICRC_sy) March 9, 2018
The Red Cross expressed hope that larger convoys could be allowed soon. However, it said medical supplies will not be permitted because the regime thinks they will be used to treat rebels facing the pro-Assad offensive that has taken more than 1/3 of the remaining opposition-held part of East Ghouta.
The Red Cross’s regional director Robert Mardini tweeted:
Taken aback by renewed violence in #Douma #EasternGhouta. We call on warring sides for an immediate humanitarian pause to allow @ICRC_sy @SYRedCrescent @UN teams to deliver vital aid to people in dire need.
— Robert Mardini (@RMardiniICRC) March 9, 2018
Reports had circulated earlier this week of surrender arrangements for some towns, as Turkey announced that camps for another 170,000 are being set up in Idlib Province in northwest Syria, possibly to take residents and rebels forcibly displaced from East Ghouta.
However, the agreement for Hamouriya fell through and others were not completed, with the regime and Russia carrying out one of their most intense bombardments so far across East Ghouta on Wednesday.
Co-Founder of White Helmets Rescuers Killed
Among the latest fatalities from pro-Assad attacks in East Ghouta is Mohammad al-Masarwa, the co-founder of the White Helmets civil defense organization.
Al-Masarwa was slain in bombardment of Douma.
Raed al-Saleh, the head of the White Helmets, said of al-Masarwa, who set up rescue teams in East Ghouta:
Today I lost someone who has been a dear brother and partner since the founding of the White Helmets.
I have been waiting for the call you promised me. Now you’re gone.
I promise you now that I will never fail you. I will never fail our people. I will give my soul in service of the Syrian people.
May your soul rest in peace, my brother Mohammad Masarwa.
Raed al Saleh, Head of the White Helmets on the passing of his
Almost 200 White Helmets rescuers have been killed by regime and Russian assaults since the organization was founded in 2013.
Our deepest condolences to @SyriaCivilDef & @RaedAlSaleh3 on the loss of Mohammad al Masarwa. Mohammad, co-founder and former Director of the White Helmets in #Ghouta, was martyred today. RIP. pic.twitter.com/rzxMVryhEt
— The Syria Campaign (@TheSyriaCmpgn) March 9, 2018
Meanwhile, other White Helmet volunteers killed this week have been buried:
— The White Helmets (@SyriaCivilDef) March 9, 2018
Jaish al-Islam: “Jabhat al-Nusra” Detainees to Be Moved to Idlib
Jaish al-Islam, one of the two leading rebel factions in East Ghouta, has announced the movement of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham detainees to Idlib Province in northwest Syria.
Hayat Tahrir al-Sham is led by the faction Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra and affiliated with Al Qa’eda. The Assad regime and Russia have used the false pretext that HTS is prominent in East Ghouta to justify assaults on civilian areas as well as the pro-Assad offensive defying a UN call for a ceasefire.