Regime and Russian air and ground attacks seek to push Islamic State out of camp for displaced Palestinians
- Douma Chemical Attacks: Witnesses Recount Chlorine Poisoning
- Donors Meet as Millions Suffering Inside and Outside Syria
Activists are describing “bodies and body parts on the streets” as a pro-Assad ground and air assault tries to reclaim the Yarmouk camp in the south of Syria’s capital Damascus.
Last week, having claimed the East Ghouta area near Damascus, regime forces and foreign militias began the offensive to retake the camp, home to more than 200,000 displaced Palestinians at the start of the Syrian uprising in 2011.
The attacks are trying to push out the Islamic State, which has held the area since early 2015 after they defeated Syrian rebels, who in turn had been in control of Yarmouk since late 2012. There is also fighting with a small pocket of fighters from the jihadist bloc Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham.
About 70 airstrikes and 30 barrel bombs struck the area on Sunday, said activist Ammar al-Qudsi: “The planes aren’t leaving the sky. The bombing has not stopped.”
Fadi Shubat, the director of pro-opposition Damascus Press said there were as many as 400 airstrikes and 100 barrel bombs since Thursday.
Al-Qaudi said at least 12 civilians have been killed, but “we expect the toll to be higher”, given difficulties in communications.
State TV continued to feature the airstrikes on Sunday, with clouds of smoke rising from the al-Hajar al-Aswad area adjacent to Yarmouk.
— Qalaat Al Mudiq (@QalaatAlMudiq) April 22, 2018
The UN refugee agency for displaced Palestinians, UNRWA, said two civilians — a father and son — were killed in their home in the latest strikes on Yarmouk.
The Action Group for Palestinians of Syria wrote of greater casualties, citing local sources, claims:
The bodies and body parts are on the streets of the camp and numbers of the injured are uncountable. We were unable to [move] them because of the intensive and continuous bombardments, the communication cuts, and the absence of medical services.
A large number of civilians are still trapped in their houses or cellars. Two of those cellars are under the rubble, and we do not know the status of those who were inside them or their numbers. The mere idea of getting out of the house under such bombardment is an [unthinkable] adventure.
The activists quoted a local doctor, Moawya Mohammed, as saying that the Palestine Hospital has been knocked out of service, after the Ambulance Department and upper floors were targeted by air raids. He said an ambulance driver was killed and a number of workers injured.
Pointing to the likelihood of further casualties, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said thousands of homes had been destroyed in Yarmouk in the last four days of fighting.
Although the large majority of residents fled Yarmouk amid bombardment and an Assad regime siege imposed from late 2012, thousands are estimated to remain in the area.
“There must be safe passage for the sick and the wounded and the dying civilians,” Gunness said. “Yarmouk has been transformed into a death camp, like one of the lower regions of hell.”
Douma Chemical Attacks: Witnesses Recount Chlorine Poisoning
Ruth Sherlock of US National Public Radio reports on interviews in northern Syria with displaced residents of Douma, confirming the April 7 chemical attacks on the town (listen from 8:00).
A mother recounts conventional bombing in the evening, but then “a barrel hit with a strange smell”. Her children’s faces “turned blue”, so they started rubbing vinegar on their faces.
Sherlock says several other interviewees gave similar accounts of the presence of chlorine, with the displaced suffering from damaged lungs.
One woman responds to the Russian and Assad regime denials, “Honestly, I was there. I saw it with my own eyes. It happened.”
Donors Meet as Millions Suffering Inside and Outside Syria
On the eve of a donors’ conference in Brussels, the Norwegian Refugee Council sets out the scale of the human damage inside Syria.
*”The aid response is just over 20 per cent funded, yet close to 700,000 people have been internally displaced by violence in Syria in 2018…with continued attacks on civilians and critical infrastructure like schools and hospitals”
*”7.3 million Syrians are living in communities reporting explosive hazards”
*”In 2017, 47 of the 172 UN convoy requests (27.3%) were approved by the government of Syria in full, a drop from 2016 when 117 requests were approved out of 258 (45.3%)”
*”Across the region 2.7 million Syrian children are still out of school.”
*”Hundreds of thousands of Syrians risk being forced to return to unsafe, explosive-ridden and devastated neighborhoods without basic services, or to where there is still active fighting.”