By Dylan Botelho, Staff Writer
Stuck in the middle of Syria’s seven-year long civil war, innocent people in Eastern Ghouta have faced 11 straight days of repeated bombings. The collection of farms and towns is home to the last major rebel-controlled area near Syria’s capital of Damascus. It is also home to around 400,000 people, trapped in-between fighting rebels and raining bombs.
In dire need of help, the people of Eastern Ghouta have only seen one small convoy for aid this entire year. The small convoy, that arrived in mid-February, provided aid for just 7,200 people according to United Nations humanitarian adviser, Jan Egeland.
Russia, however, has called for daily five-hour local ceasefires to establish what officials call a “humanitarian corridor” so that aid may enter the area and help evacuate civilians and the wounded in need.
Russia is one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s strongest allies. Their decision was not as much humanitarian as it was political. “It’s not to save the people,” one anonymous humanitarian official told The Guardian. “It’s exactly the same propaganda war, more for media than civilians.”
The first five-hour truce that took place on Tuesday, February 27, lasted nowhere near the five hours it was intended to. Despite the promise that a humanitarian corridor would be opened for a 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., window, local residents and activists reported that violence continued as usual.
Russia’s excuse for no “humanitarian corridor”? They say that shelling into the capital of Damascus from Eastern Ghouta has not stopped, but rebel groups denied to have opened fire. So now the lives over 400,000 people are being put in danger over a he said, she said.
On Thursday, Friday March 1, violence continued as normal. The Syrian army launched ground assaults on the edge of Eastern Ghouta and killed 11 people. Not only are more people dying, but they’re losing aid quickly. Since Saturday, February 24, two hospitals in Eastern Ghouta were completely bombed and according to Ghanem Tayara, chairman of the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations working in Syria, there are around 1,123 people in need of evacuation from the area and to hospitals that haven’t been reduced to piles of rubbles and ash.
The death toll of the constant assaults on Eastern Ghouta is now over 600 by local counts, making it one of the most brutally violent stages in the last seven years of Syria’s civil war. Aside from constant bombardment, the people within Eastern Ghouta are also running alarmingly low on food supplies.
Food prices are soaring in local markets due to the shortages and many people are staying away from them all together, instead opting to stay within their bomb shelters and basements, in fear of what has become a regular occurrence.
Many people have gone to social media to share #SaveGhouta, urging local government and the United Nations to become further involved. United Nations officials like Egeland have pleaded for the Russian’s five-hour plan to be expanded upon, allowing aid to actually reach the civilians in need.
“We were not involved in the talks that led to the declaration of a five-hour pause. And if we had been we would say that it is not enough,” said Egeland.
Who knows if any sanctions or cease-fires will ever be enough for the people of Eastern Ghouta though.
Thousands of innocent people are trapped within their homes by their own country, out for blood and destruction, while also residing in an area that has become the number one stronghold for rebel forces like al-Qaeda who are equally out for blood.