Syria's Newest Graveyard

Photo Source: Google Images

By Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe Upfront

Eastern Ghouta is getting berated as Syria’s newest graveyard. It is because at least ninety eight people were killed in a single day in February 2018. The event was recorded as the deadliest attack, in Syria’s three-year war history.

According to Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least two hundred twenty-nine people were killed, in a matter of five days, in eastern Ghouta in February 2018. Among the dead were fifty-eight children and forty-three women.

As per United Nations data, around four hundred thousand civilians are trapped in the area. Surprisingly, half are believed to be children.

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 seven hundred 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 four hundred thousand 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. Other survivors, such as young Syrian children, have used Twitter, to spread the shocking realities, on the ground.

In eastern Ghouta, war has regained its course, after UN Security Council, announced a thirty-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 ten to twenty five 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 thirty thousand 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, known as Ghouta chemical attack.

The last of thirteen hundred 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.

Although, 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 thirty five Peshmerga, in Erbil, in August 2015, signatures of mustard gas were reported. It was believed that chemical weapons were again used on Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province, during April 2017.

Despite the fact that investigators have not been allowed in the country, the compiled facts by UN researchers also disclose an interesting story, that reflects targeting of Syrian army, with episodes chemical attacks.

In December 2013, signed reports of UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon revealed:

“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, a democratically elected president, backed, by Iran and Russia, to step down, who is also being flanked on the usage of chemical weapons, the question arises: what will happen to Syria, in such a situation, when ISIS rebels continue to gain a stronghold? If the US believes that Assad is an Iranian and Russian backed puppet, will it be okay for common 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 a war in the Syrian Kurdish territories, highlighting that there are several political players, trying to have an upper hand, in this rapacious war of modern times.


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