Eastern Ghouta: Syria's Graveyard

Photo Source: Google Images

By Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe Up Front

Eastern Ghouta is Syria’s newest graveyard. 

In February 2018, at least 98 people were killed in a single day. The event was recorded as the deadliest attack in Syria’s three-year war history.

According to Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 229 people were killed in a matter of five days in Eastern Ghouta in February 2018. Among the dead were 58 children and 43 women. 

As per United Nations data, around 400,000 civilians are trapped in the area. Surprisingly, half are believed to be children. The survivors, interestingly, are preferring to live in government-controlled areas.

The main rebel groups in Eastern Ghouta have been Jaish Al Islam, Faylaq al Rahman and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. Some of these groups have managed to make peace negotiations in the recent past.

A four-day airstrike has left around 700 civilians injured in Eastern Ghouta. Paramedics were clicked by photojournalists carrying children in their ambulances, amidst wrecked cars in the neighbourhood lanes. 

White Helmets, known as Syria Civil Defense, a volunteer organisation has become active in Eastern Ghouta lately with its rescue operations in the rubble. 

At this point in time, around 400,000 Syrian survivors are in need of food, medical and other supplies.

Survivors were seen coming out of the rubble and from the twisted metal of the building debris. A dark grey smoke was seen rising from the Eastern Ghouta buildings. 

The US had accused Russians of imposing strict curfew in areas under their control to prevent civilians leaving through the humanitarian corridor.

In this highly alarming situation, doctors and nurses have used Internet communication apps such as Whatsapp to dispel the situation on the ground with leading foreign news agencies. 

Otherer survivors such as young Syrian children have used Twitter to dispel the shocking realities on the ground. 

In Eastern Ghouta, war has regained its course, after UN Security Council, announced a 30-day truce deal.

In May 2017, Iran, Russia, Turkey had signed a truce agreement, that had declared Eastern Ghouta ‘a de-escalation zone’. 

However, US forces have accused Assad, once again, of using chemical weapons such as chlorine lately, as government forces have confirmed of regaining control of 10-25 percent of Eastern Ghouta. Its control for government forces, due to its proximity to Damascus and Assad’s residence, had become strategically important lately. 

Around 30,000 people have been internally displaced, especially from the areas of Beit Sawa, Otaya and Douma villages.

Syria has become notorious on the issue of using chemical weapons in the civil war. The use of chemical weapons violates U.N. Security Council resolutions and the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention. 

Syrian State had agreed in September 2013 to destroy its chemical weapon inventory under the deal with Russia and United States, after hundreds of people were killed in sarin gas attack in Ghouta chemical attack.

The last of 1,300 tonnes of chemical weapons declared to the OPCW was handed over in June 2014, but several nations had expressed doubts about its complete disuse. 

However, there has been no report of rebels seizing the stockpile of chemical weapons from the government.

A confidential Oct. 29 report by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), a summary of which was shown to Reuters, concluded “ with  utmost confidence” that at least two people were exposed to mustard gas in the town of Marea, north of Aleppo, on Aug. 21 in 2014 (two months after). 

Diplomatic sources had mentioned that the chemical had been used in the clashes between Islamic State and another rebel group.

Hence, it denotes that the chemical weapons may have been made by Islamic State itself or seized from somewhere. 

In fact, CIA, during Obama administration, believed that a Sunni fundamentalist group, active in Iraq and Syria, understood the art of producing sarin. American intelligence officials also believed that an ex Iraqi army man, known as Ziyaad Tariq Ahmad, working for the al-Nusra group, was believed to have a track record of making sarin and mustard gas.

When blood samples were taken of 35 Peshmerga fighters in Erbil in August 2015, signatures of mustard gas were reported. In April 2017, it was believed that chemical weapons were again used on Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province.

According to a UN Mission Report, it is believed that Trump administration has no basis to conclude that the aim of Assad regime has been to deliberately trigger a chemical attack with a view of killing civilians at 'a large scale' (around 1500-2000 Syrians are believed to have been killed by chemical weapons until now.)

Despite the fact that investigators have not been allowed in the country, the compiled facts also disclose an interesting story.

In December 2013, signed reports of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reveal:

“The United Nations Mission collected credible information that corroborates the allegations that chemical weapons were used in Khan al Asal on 19 March 2013 against soldiers and civilians.” (Page 21)

The United Nations Mission collected evidence consistent with the probable use of chemical weapons in Jobar on 24 August 2013 on a relatively small scale against soldiers.” (Page 22)

“The United Nations Mission collected evidence that suggests that chemical weapons were used in Ashrafiah Sahnaya on 25 August 2013 on a small scale against soldiers.” (Page 23)

If people want Assad (who is backed by Iran and Russia) to step down, who has been democratically elected, despite being flanked on the usage of chemical weapons, the question arises: what will happen to Syria in such a situation when rebels continue to gain a stronghold? If the US believes that Assad is an Iranian and Russian backed puppet, will it be okay for Syrians to have a regime change, which will be close to the American state? And what about Turkey's offensive inside Syria? 

At this moment in time, Turkey continues to wage war in the Syrian Kurdish territories.


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