Resident of Hamouriya amid intense pro-Assad assault: “It’s worse than Judgement Day”
- UN: Systematic Rape of Women and Girls in 20 Regime Detention Facilities
- UN: Water to Afrin Cut by Turkish-Rebel Offensive
UPDATE 1715 GMT: The Violations Documentation Center reports that pro-Assad forces have shelled the aid convoy trying to reach Douma, the second disruption of an attempted delivery in a week:
VDC team recently recorded the targeting of the UN aid convoy in #Douma with two artillery shells launched from the highlands north of Douma, where Syrian government forces are based.
The UN convoy includes 25 vehicles loaded with food baskets and flour bags. #Syria #EastGhouta
— Violations Documentation Center in Syria (VDC) (@VDC_Syria) March 15, 2018
Footage of the convoy before the shelling:
E. #Damascus: an aid convoy was allowed to reach #Duma today. The way it was unloaded is telling (last convoy was forced to leave partially loaded due to bombardment). https://t.co/d85mPogTMT pic.twitter.com/8F9RMhNmlW
— Qalaat Al Mudiq (@QalaatAlMudiq) March 15, 2018
UPDATE 1245 GMT: Syrian State outlet SANA frames the pro-Assad attacks on Hamouriya, killing scores and forcing hundreds to flee, “Units of the Syrian Arab army on Thursday secured the exit of a new batch of besieged civilians from the eastern Ghouta via Hamouriya.”
UPDATE 1045 GMT: With reports piling up of mass killing in Hamouriya by pro-Assad forces, the BBC’s Riam Dalati reports:
Hundreds of residents streaming out of town towards Syrian Army points in town, around 1 mile from center.
Loads more opted to go further in [East Ghouta] towards Irbin and Zamalka.
Less than 100 fighters remaining in town, currently mulling withdrawal after all civilians leave.
Residents say a convoy of fleeing people, including women and children, was hit by an airstrike on Wednesday. The number of casualties is unknown.
— المركز الاعلامي الحر (@MediaCenterfr) March 15, 2018
Meanwhile, in another part of East Ghouta, a 25-truck convoy is entering the enclave:
Entering #EasternGhouta now.
— ICRC Syria (@ICRC_sy) March 15, 2018
Red Cross head Peter Maurer writes, This area has suffered enormously from weeks of shelling. I can’t even begin to imagine the profound fear and hopelessness people are experiencing.”
Up to 35 people were killed by pro-Assad attacks on Wednesday in the besieged opposition enclave of East Ghouta, near Syria’s Damascus, despite talks in Douma seeking a pause in the assault, aid, and medical evacuations.
The Syrian Network for Human Rights said the death toll includes seven children and two women.
Some of the pro-Assad attacks were on Hamouriya in the southern part of East Ghouta, as a surrender agreement apparently broke down. The SNHR said the 12 victims from shelling included four children and two women.
Meanwhile, the UN continued its effort to arrange an aid convoy for Douma, the center of the enclave, after the Assad regime finally allowed a group of seriously ill people to leave for treatment in Damascus earlier this week.
Ziad Msallati, a senior advisor in the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, said a 25-truck convoy with food and medical aid will enter Douma on Thursday.
A convoy — only the third allowed by the Assad regime since last summer, amid a tightening five-year siege — reached Douma last week. However, 70% of its medical supplies were stripped by regime forces and the trucks had to turn after delivering only half of the food, because of security fears amid pro-Assad attacks.
The UN’s head of humanitarian operations, Jan Egeland, confirmed the intention for a Thursday deliver but said nothing is certain until the trucks are unloaded.
He said fighting had diminshed around Douma after talks with the main rebel faction Jaish al-Islam, had led to the evacuation of 147 patients and their families to Damascus hsopital.
Apart from the transfer of 27 people in December, the regime had refused to allowed the seriously ill out of East Ghouta, with scores dying from treatable medical conditions.
The pro-Assad offensive has killed more than 1,400 people since early February and more than 1,100 in the last three weeks. Ground assaults have taken more than half of East Ghouta, cutting off the key towns of Douma and Harasta from each other.
From Hamouriya: “About 5000 People Still Stuck”
A message passed to EA from a resident of Hamouriya:
The situation in Hamouriyah is very bad, all communication was completely cut off.
Regime military entered the town from the east side. I tried to escape, but i couldn’t. I witnessed an entire family getting killed in front of me by an air strike. So I had to go back with my family to the basement.
Now, I’m outside of the basement, trying to send this message, our voices.
Most of the people have left the town, about 5000 people still stuck, dozens of families tried to flee under the heavy shelling, with the advancing of the regime military, we don’t know what happened to them.
Dozens of people were injured duo to the heavy shelling, no one was able to reach them, the reconnaissance plane is in the sky and warplanes are targeting anything that moves.
While regime forces advancing between residential neighbourhoods.
Please help us. Send my message to anyone. We know that we have only God.
This may be the last message by me and our people in Hamouriyah.
From journalist Hadi al-Abdallah:
SOS calls trickling in from Hamourieh, #Ghouta, where 5,000 people could be killed any minute by regime forces trying to invade the town. Assad/Russia shelling out of control, dozens of wounded civilians in the streets, no way of escaping. The world must do something! Anything!
— هادي العبدالله Hadi (@HadiAlabdallah) March 15, 2018
From the BBC’s Riam Dalati:
'There are now rumours of airstrike against a convoy of civilians who were leaving town for safer areas. Hearing bodies strewn everywhere. #WhiteHelmets in town can't cope anymore. It's worse than Judgement Day here.'
— Riam Dalati (@Dalatrm) March 14, 2018
"The wounded are on the streets and cannot be transferred […] the army is shelling the town with all sorts of weapons and we don’t know what happened to the families who fled under the shelling." -Witness from #Hamouriya #Eastghouta #Syria #IHL
— Violations Documentation Center in Syria (VDC) (@VDC_Syria) March 14, 2018
UN: Systematic Rape of Women and Girls in 20 Regime Detention Facilities
UN war crimes investigators say they have documented rape of women and girls in 20 detention facilities of the Assad regime.
The incidents include gang rape by multiple officers. Investigators say, “Often the perpetrator of rape has been a low-ranking officer”, but “numerous cases of rapes by high level officers have also been documented”.
Men have also been raped in 15 facilities, with sexual torture and humiliation of boys as young as 11, including night-time assaults by guards using sticks and electricity. Detainees spoke of a “slaughterhouse”, with genital mutilation.
The report sumamrizes that “sexual violence against females and males is used to force confessions, to extract information, as punishment, as well as to terrorise opposition communities”, in “a widespread and systematic attack directed against a civilian population, and amount[ing] to crimes against humanity”.
The UN team also found some rapes by rebel groups, though to a far less extent than the offenses of the regime. The jihadist bloc Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham caused “severe psychological and physical harm” to women &andgirls through religious dress codes and denial of freedom of movement without male relatives.
UN: Water to Afrin Cut by Turkish-Rebel Offensive
Water to Afrin city, the center of a Kurdish canton in northwest Syria, has been cut for a week by a Turkish-rebel offensive, the UN says.
Officials said Turkish-rebel forces have seized the main dam and water plant in the canton, much of which they have taken in a seven-week offensive.
“Water has been fully cut off because of the Turkish army’s control over it,” confirmed Birusk Hasaka, spokesman for the Kurdish YPG militia. “Civilians are depending on wells to get water, and they are not enough and not good for drinking unfortunately.”
Having secured all of northwest Syria on the border and captured other canton towns such as Rajo and Jinderes, Turkish troops and their Free Syrian allies now surround Afrin city.
The UN Office for humanitarian affairs says thousands of people are fleeing towards regime-held territory.