Almost 100 civilians killed in 48 hours as Russia and regime maintain bombardment
UPDATE 1700 GMT: The Syrian Network for Human Rights reports 407 barrel-bombings by the Assad regime in February.
Almost 300 of the attacks were in East Ghouta — the first barrel-bombings of the area in Syria’s seven-year conflict. Of the others, 72 were in Idlib Province, 20 in Aleppo Province, and 18 in Hama Province.
Noor and Alaa, the girls in East Ghouta who have tried to inform the world of life under attack, tweet:
— Noor And Alaa (@Noor_and_Alaa) March 11, 2018
UPDATE 1230 GMT: Russia and the Assad regime have carried out dozens of airstrikes on East Ghouta this morning:
The bloody massacres continue in #EasternGhouta today, 3 civilians were killed in #Arbin city, and 3 others in #Zamalka city so far. Massive bombardment continues with more than 44 air strikes and
intensive artillery shelling. #SaveGhouta pic.twitter.com/sJiU02xygG
— The White Helmets (@SyriaCivilDef) March 11, 2018
The number of victims killed in #Arbin city today increased to 9 civilians including two women so far, after continuous bombing targeted the city. @SyriaCivilDefe teams worked to retrieve the martyrs, and continue the rescue operation. #SaveGhouta #Syria 11 Mar pic.twitter.com/1LzdD7nok0
— The White Helmets (@SyriaCivilDef) March 11, 2018
Shrouded bodies in Douma on Saturday:
Pro-Assad forces kill more than 40 civilians on Saturday in East Ghouta, near Syria’s capital Damascus, as the offensive tried to cut off key towns from each other.
The Syrian Network for Human Rights reported 10 children and 8 women among the dead. The Syrian American Medical Society said at least 49 people, including 14 women and 10 children, were killed and 200 wounded on Friday.
The situation in eastern Ghouta is truly horrific. Locals are reporting the numerous families are buried under the rubble and civil defense are unable to dig them out. Russian and regime jets & helicopters pounded the besieged enclave non-stop.
— Elizabeth Tsurkov (@Elizrael) March 11, 2018
The death toll is estimated to be least 1,400 since the offensive — defying a de-escalation agreement and a UN call for a ceasefire — surged in early February.
The White Helmets civil defense said that, in East Ghouta’s center of Douma, 20 civilians were killed — including four children and three women — by shelling and more than 75 regime and Russian airstrikes.
The situation in #EastGhouta is escalating and deteriorating on a daily basis. In #Douma alone 20 civilians were killed today including 4 children and 3 women after the shelling by more than 75 airstrikes from war planes and helicopters and over 200 rocket launchers in the city. pic.twitter.com/62bNsU1bu4
— The White Helmets (@SyriaCivilDef) March 10, 2018
Pro-Assad forces finally claimed the town of Mesraba, along the road connecting the northern and southern halves of East Ghouta. From late February, there have been talks for a surrender agreement, but these were not completed as the regime and its allies continued their attacks.
Hamza Birqadar, a spokesman for the leading rebel faction Jaish al-Islam, denied that either Harasta or Douma had been cut off.
Russia and the regime have pursued the attacks, as well as a tightening five-year siege, on the pretext that they are attacking the jihadist bloc Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, labelled as “Jabhat al-Nusra”, the group formerly linked to Al Qa’eda.
In fact, HTS has few fighters at large in East Ghouta. On Saturday, Jaish al-Islam announced that it was moving HTS detainees and their families to Idlib in northwest Syria.
Assad Regime: Rebels to Stage Chemical Attack on Sunday
Covering up the Assad regime’s chemical attacks on East Ghouta — and possibly setting up a pretext for another one — Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mikdad has declared that rebels will stage their own assault on Sunday in the territory:
We have received information that militants plan to stage an attack between the districts of Mesraba and Beit Sawa. Tahrir al-Sham terrorists plan to sacrifice several women for this purpose and launch a disinformation campaign. The performance is thought to be scheduled for March 11.
Mikdad gave no evidence for assertion, headlined by Russian State outlet RT.
Instead, the official tried to sweep away official findings of sarin and chlorine attacks by the Assad regime:
Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons specialists are appointed by the West and don’t want to know the truth. Western countries were only interested in one thing – proving that the government used chemical weapons. This is despite us finding plenty of chemical weapon labs in formerly rebel-held areas. We have mentioned this plenty of times, but the West only wants to believe terrorists.
1st Female White Helmets Volunteer Killed
White Helmet volunteer Sobhiya al-Sa’ad has been killed, along with several members of her family, in an airstrike on their house, south of Idlib city.
Saad is the first female volunteer to be killed, after almost 200 of her male colleagues were slain by the Assad regime and Russia since 2013.
Turkish-Rebel Offensive Closes on Afrin City
The 50-day Turkish-rebel offensive against the Kurdish canton in northwest Syria is closing on its center, the city of Afrin.
Turkish troops and the Free Syrian Army are approaching Afrin from the east and northeastern, taking five more villages this weekend, according to Turkish media.
The ground offensive, launched on January 20, has secured all of northwest Syria on the border. In the past two weeks, it has moved into the canton’s other large towns, Rajo and Jinderes.
The Turkish military says it has “neutralized” — killed, captured, or forced the surrender of — 3,291 fighters of the YPG militia.