Quantcast i24NEWS - Syria, Russia pound rebel enclave, put clinics out of service

Syria, Russia pound rebel enclave, put clinics out of service

Syrian children wait at a makeshift hospital in the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta town of Douma following air strikes on the nearby town of Mesraba on February 19, 2018
Hamza Al-Ajweh (AFP)
The United Nations said six hospitals had been hit in the region in the past 48 hours

Syrian and Russian air strikes on Tuesday slammed into the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta enclave, leaving more than 100 civilians dead for the second straight day and putting another hospital out of service.

In a major twist for Syria's complex seven-year war, Damascus also sent pro-regime fighters to the northern Afrin region, where they came under fire by Turkish forces attacking the Kurdish-controlled enclave.

On the outskirts of Damascus, air strikes, rockets and artillery fire have  battered the Eastern Ghouta enclave in apparent preparation for a government ground assault.

At least 250 civilians have been killed since the escalation began on Sunday, among them dozens of children, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Bombardment on Tuesday killed 106 civilians, including 19 children, the Britain-based war monitor said.

It was the second straight day that the civilian death toll topped 100, after 127 were killed Monday in Eastern Ghouta's bloodiest day in four years.

Strikes put a key hospital out of service on Tuesday, further limiting the little medical aid that besieged civilians could access.

"The Arbin hospital was hit twice today and is now out of service," said Moussa Naffa, country director in Jordan for the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), which supported the clinic.

The Observatory blamed Russian warplanes, saying Moscow carried out its first strikes in three months on Eastern Ghouta.

Hamza Al-Ajweh (AFP)

The rebel-held region is nominally included in a "de-escalation" deal meant to tamp down violence, but President Bashar al-Assad is apparently preparing troops for an imminent ground assault to retake it.

The United States said it was "deeply concerned" about the escalating attacks on the enclave.

"The cessation of violence must begin now," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, criticizing what she called the "siege and starve tactics" of the Assad regime.

- Six hospitals hit - 

Eastern Ghouta is home to more than 400,000 people living under crippling government siege, with little access to food or medical resources.

The United Nations said six hospitals had been hit in the region in the past 48 hours, in addition to the one in Arbin.

At least three were out of service and two were only partially functioning, said the UN's regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria, Panos Moumtzis.

"It's beyond imagination what is happening in East Ghouta today," he said.

"The untold suffering is intolerable and residents have no idea whether they will live or die. This nightmare in East Ghouta must end and must end now."

Hours before the Arbin hospital was bombed, a doctor there spoke of the casualties they had been treating.

"February 19 was the one of the worst days that we've ever had in the history of this crisis," Abu al-Yasar told AFP.

He described treating a one-year-old with blue skin and a faint pulse, rescued from under the rubble.

Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP

"I opened his mouth to put in a breathing tube and I found it packed with dirt," said Abu al-Yasar.

He pulled out the dirt as fast as possible, put in the breathing tube and managed to save the baby.

"This is just one story from among hundreds of wounded."

'No words'

"February 19 was the one of the worst days that we've ever had in the history of this crisis," said an exhausted doctor in a hospital in Eastern Ghouta.

Identifying himself as Abu al-Yasar, he described treating a one-year-old brought into the Arbin hospital with blue skin and a faint pulse, rescued from under the rubble.

"I opened his mouth to put in a breathing tube and I found it packed with dirt," Abu al-Yaar told AFP.

He pulled out the dirt as fast as possible, put in the breathing tube and managed to save the baby's life.

"This is just one story from among hundreds of wounded."

The bloodshed prompted the UN children's agency UNICEF to issue a largely blank statement on Tuesday to express its anger.

"We no longer have the words to describe children's suffering and our outrage," the agency said in a brief postscript beneath the empty space on the page.

"Do those inflicting the suffering still have words to justify their barbaric acts?"

More than 400,000 people live in Eastern Ghouta, which has been surrounded by government troops since 2013. Food, medicine, and other basic necessities are nearly impossible to obtain.

US 'deeply concerned' about attacks on Syria rebel enclave

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert blamed the Assad regime's "siege and starve tactics" for adding to the humanitarian disaster in the Damascus district, and endorsed the United Nations' call for a month-long halt to violence.

"The United States is deeply concerned by the escalating violence in the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta," Nauert told reporters. "The escalation is exacerbating the already grave human suffering of nearly 400,000 people. 

"The cessation of violence must begin now, and those needing emergency assistance should be allowed to evacuate immediately," she added.

Eastern Ghouta is home to more than 400,000 people living under crippling government siege, with little access to food or medical resources.

Syrian and Russian air strikes slammed the area earlier, adding 100 civilian deaths to the toll since Sunday and putting another hospital out of service.

The rebel-held district is nominally included in a "de-escalation" deal meant to tamp down violence, but President Bashar al-Assad is apparently preparing troops for an imminent ground assault to retake the area.

Nauert compared the assault on Eastern Ghouta to the 2016 siege of East Aleppo, when the Assad regime with Russian support laid waste to a heavily civilian populated district of the city in its push to eliminate Islamic State fighters.

"The horrors of East Aleppo are being repeated in East Ghouta with the ongoing slaughter of trapped civilians and woefully inadequate access for humanitarian actors," she said.

"We call on all parties to commit to the unconditional deescalation of violence. Russia must end its support of the Assad regime and its allies. They are responsible for the attacks, for the dire humanitarian situation in East Ghouta and for the horrendous civilian death toll."

Read more:

Even in 'de-escalation zones,' Syria's children are starving to death

Comments

(0)
8Previous articleNetanyahu says Abbas 'running away' from peace
8Next articlePalestinian dies from wounds a week after clashes on Gaza border: ministry