Air Strikes On Syria’s Ghouta Kill 10 In One Night

FILE PHOTO: Wounded Syrians receive medical attention at a makeshift clinic following reported air strikes in the Syrian rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta on March 5, 2018. PHOTO: Ammar SULEIMAN / AFP

Air strikes on rebel areas of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus killed at least 10 civilians overnight, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday.

The Britain-based monitoring group’s head, Rami Abdel Rahman, said the strikes were carried out by Russian warplanes on the Saqba area, in the south of the splintered enclave.

AFP

Air Strike On Syria Enclave Kills Over 500 In Seven Days 

A wounded Syrian child rests after receiving treatment at a makeshift hospital in the rebel-held town of Douma, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, following air strikes by regime forces on the area on February 23, 2018. PHOTO: HAMZA AL-AJWEH / AFP

New air strikes on the Syrian rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta on Saturday took the civilian death toll from seven days of devastating bombardment to more than 500 after the United Nations again delayed a vote on a ceasefire.

More than 120 children have been among the dead in the bombing campaign that the regime launched last Sunday on the enclave just outside Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Britain-based monitor of the war said at least 29 civilians were killed in Saturday’s strikes, including 17 in the main town of Douma.

It has said the strikes are being carried out by Syrian and Russian forces. Moscow, which intervened militarily in support of its Damascus ally in 2015, has denied any direct involvement in the Eastern Ghouta bombardment.

US President Donald Trump on Friday said Russia’s recent actions in Syria were a “disgrace”.

The UN Security Council had been due to hold a vote on Friday on a resolution calling for a month-long ceasefire to allow aid deliveries and the evacuation of seriously wounded civilians.

But the vote was postponed until 1700 GMT on Saturday as Western powers bickered with Russia over the wording.

– Rebel fire on Damascus –

Control of Eastern Ghouta is shared between two Islamist factions and Syria‘s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, and Russia insists there can be no ceasefire with the jihadists or their allies.

Russia has been pressing for a negotiated withdrawal of rebel fighters and their families like the one that saw the government retake full control of second city Aleppo in December 2016.

But all three rebel groups have refused.

World leaders have expressed outrage at the plight of civilians in Eastern Ghouta, which UN chief Antonio Guterres called “hell on earth”, but have so far been powerless to halt the bloodshed.

The enclave is completely surrounded by government-controlled territory and its 400,000 residents are unwilling or unable to flee the deadly siege.

The rebels have been firing back into Damascus, where a hospital was hit on Friday, state news agency SANA reported.

At least 16 civilians have been killed in eastern districts of the capital since Sunday, according to state media, and many residents have sought temporary accommodation elsewhere for fear of a further intensification of the fighting.

– ‘Unbelievable’ –

At the United Nations, US ambassador Nikki Haley expressed dismay as negotiations dragged on to secure Russian approval for a ceasefire resolution.

“Unbelievable that Russia is stalling a vote on a ceasefire allowing humanitarian access in Syria,” Haley posted on Twitter.

“How many more people will die before the Security Council agrees to take up this vote? Let’s do this tonight. The Syrian people can’t wait.”

Russia has vetoed 11 draft resolutions on Syria to block action that targeted its ally. In November, it used its veto to end a UN-led investigation of chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron wrote to Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Friday to ask him to back the ceasefire.

Negotiations have stumbled over a key provision of the draft resolution that specifies when the ceasefire will begin.

Following hours of tough negotiations, an amended draft was circulated that demands a 30-day ceasefire “without delay,” while stopping short of specifying the timing.

A previous draft had said the ceasefire would go into force 72 hours after the adoption, but that was dropped from the text in a bid to reach compromise with Russia.

In another concession to Russia, the draft also specifies that the ceasefire will not apply to operations against the Islamic State group or Al-Qaeda, along with “individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated” with the blacklisted terror groups.

The text would demand the immediate lifting of all sieges, including that on Eastern Ghouta, and order all sides to “cease depriving civilians of food and medicine indispensable to their survival”.

1,100 Children Suffering Malnutrition In Syria’s Ghouta – UNICEF

Syrian women and children gather on the western front after fleeing the centre of Raqa on October 12, 2017. BULENT KILIC / AFP

More than 1,100 children are suffering from acute malnutrition in the besieged rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area outside the Syrian capital, the UN’s children’s fund UNICEF told AFP on Monday.

Based on surveys done in recent months, the body said 1,114 children were suffering from various forms of malnutrition, including the most dangerous form, known as “severe acute malnutrition”.

Spokeswoman Monica Awad said assessments in the past three months found 232 children suffering severe acute malnutrition, a level of undernourishment that requires urgent treatment if the child is to survive.

Another 882 were suffering moderate acute malnutrition, with more than 1,500 other children at risk, Awad said.

“During the past month, there has been two reported deaths among infants, one girl aged 34 days and a boy aged 45 days, due to insufficient breastfeeding,” Awad said.

“Mothers also don’t have access to quality food, making them frail and unable to breastfeed their children.”

Sahar Dofdaa, just 34 days old, died on Sunday at a hospital in the Eastern Ghouta town of Hamouria.

Images filmed by a reporter working with AFP showed a wide-eyed girl with listless eyes and little but skin on her bones.

She tried to cry but lacked the strength to make much of a noise. Her young mother sobbed nearby.

Her skeletal thighs poked out of a nappy way over her size. Placed on the scales, she weighed less than two kilograms (just over four pounds).

Her mother was too undernourished to breastfeed her and her father, earning a pittance at a butcher’s shop, was unable to afford milk and supplements.

She died at the hospital on Sunday morning and her parents took her — their only child — to their nearby town of Kafr Batna to bury her.

“The humanitarian needs are great,” Awad said.

“They need quality food, medicine and therapeutic nutrition supplies.”

Up to 400,000 people are believed to live across Eastern Ghouta, one of the last remaining opposition strongholds in Syria.

The area has been under siege by President Bashar al-Assad’s force since 2013, causing food and medical shortages and skyrocketing prices for what is produced locally or smuggled in.

Aid convoys have rarely been able to access the region, which was once known as a prime agricultural area.

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On September 23, a convoy carrying food and medical aid for some 25,000 people entered three besieged areas of Eastern Ghouta, according to the UN.

But Awad said “it was not sufficient to meet the needs of all children.”

AFP