Intense Aerial War on Eastern Ghouta Leads to 107 Deaths in Seven Days
In recent days Russian and Syrian forces have intensified their aerial bombardment, including a chlorine gas attack on besieged Eastern Ghouta. Since 14 November, 107 people have been killed, including four White Helmet volunteers, five schools and two medical facilities have been attacked and more than 600 civilians injured. In the past week alone there have been nine direct attacks on White Helmet centres.
Eastern Ghouta is one of the areas in the Russian, Turkish and Iranian brokered ‘de-escalation zones’. This increase in violence comes just days before Russia, Turkey and Iran are due to meet in Sochi to discuss Syria.
Up to 390,000 civilians – including 200,000 children – remain besieged, cut off from essentials such a food and medical care, in what the UN is calling a “critical” humanitarian emergency.
Eastern Ghouta was one of the first areas to take part in the peaceful protests demanding change and the enclave outside of Damascus has been under complete siege since October 2013, leading to severe shortage of medical supplies and basic supplies. The wounded, sick, and critically ill are not allowed to leave Eastern Ghouta to receive the treatment they need, while the delivery of goods and supplies has been severely restricted and food prices have skyrocketed.
THE AERIAL WAR IN NUMBERS: SYRIA CIVIL DEFENCE STATISTICS
All figures from 00:00 November 14th to 20:00 November 21st (Local Damascus time). All data relates to attacks the Syria Civil Defence responded to.
Over the past week:
- 107 civilians killed (64 men, 13 women, 30 children)
- 445 civilians injured (267 men, 82 women, 96 children)
- 245 airstrikes
- 1290 artillery shells used
- 56 cluster bombs
- 1 missile
- 12 land to surface missiles (GGM)
THE SYRIA CIVIL DEFENCE UNDER ATTACK IN EASTERN GHOUTA
- The White Helmets have 12 teams across Eastern Ghouta with 390 volunteers.
- The Assad regime has used a ‘double-tap’ strategy to target teams and 39 Syria Civil Defence volunteers from Damascus suburbs have been killed since they formed – four volunteers in the last week.
Nine instances of direct targeting of Syria Civil Defence centres and teams with missiles and cluster munitions in the last week. These attacks have destroyed equipment and vehicles, making saving lives even harder.
A VIEW FROM THE GROUND
White Helmet Volunteer, Mahmoud Adam said:
“On the 14th of November, a very fierce aerial campaign started targeting the cities and towns of Eastern Ghouta. All of the areas are being targeted, there is no area that is safe for civilians. All kinds of weapons are being used. The city of Harasta was targeted with incendiary weapons, cluster munitions are being used in many areas, in addition to the targeted missiles of the aircraft. The Assad regime is using all of these different kinds of weapons and on the ground, the area is besieged by Iranian-backed militias.
“The last UN food delivery was on the 11th of November, which consisted of 4,300 aid baskets. These were only distributed in one city that has 25,000 civilians so every seven families got approximately one basket. Nothing reached the other 365,000 civilians in Eastern Ghouta.
“The humanitarian situation is extremely dire. There are also epidemics of diseases and illnesses that cannot be treated. There are many patients with kidney failure, in need of dialysis treatments. A kilogram of sugar is now 17,000 SYP or roughly $45. People in Ghouta are deprived of the basic necessities of life. This is a crisis in every way – an intense aerial campaign combined with the terrible siege has created a desperate humanitarian crisis.
“We are suffering because of the siege imposed by the Assad regime, we don’t have the equipment we need to rescue civilians. It has prevented us from getting equipment – fire trucks and other supplies since we started five years ago. We are having to retrofit our old vehicles and old ambulances to get the job done. We are even manufacturing our own fire trucks. We don’t have the inflatable air jacks to lift collapsed buildings off civilians. Now, the biggest problem we face is the shortage of fuel that we need to keep our vehicles and equipment running. If the campaign continues like this, it will be a calamity. We also continue to suffer because of the direct targeting of the White Helmets teams and centres.”
HEAD OF THE WHITE HELMETS, RAED AL SALEH said:
“The situation in Eastern Ghouta is emblematic of the international community’s failure on Syria and should be a source of deep shame for all the ‘guarantors’ of the de-escalation zones.
“Right now there are 390,000 civilians besieged in Eastern Ghouta, deprived of the basic necessities essential for life. They are facing non-stop aerial attacks from all types of weapons. The attacks are targeting hospitals, clinics and White Helmet centres — knowing that destroying this infrastructure will lead to further suffering and death.
The international community must act swiftly. I am deeply concerned about the extreme hunger that is overcoming Eastern Ghouta and we plead with the international community to act quickly to stop this humanitarian crisis from deepening. This must be the priority for the upcoming political negotiations — we cannot begin to prepare for peace in the future when people are being starved right now.”
DIRECTOR OF THE SYRIA CAMPAIGN, ANNA NOLAN said:
“What is happening in Eastern Ghouta can only be described as a ‘re-escalation’ zone — a child was killed every 5.5 hours in the past week. It’s inconceivable for the international community to be pushing a real political process while war crimes are being committed daily in the the “de-escalation” zones that are the building blocks of these talks. Far from being safe areas, it’s hard to imagine how they could be more deadly.”