Conflict

Civilian casualties mount in rebel-held East Ghouta

Syria

More than 400 people have been killed over the past week, as airstrikes and shelling on rebel-held East Ghouta intensify.

The humanitarian situation in Damascus’ East Ghouta suburb is deteriorating with each passing day. The suburb, which is the last rebel stronghold within the Damascus metropolitan area, has witnessed daily bombardments, with the number of casualties reaching nearly 400 within the course of five days. The bombardment has struck virtually every district and village in the region. Douma, Jobar, Ayn Tarma, Harasta and Arbeen, however, have been hit particularly hard.

The renewed bombardment comes amidst reports of the SAA planning its final push on the rebel stronghold that has been under siege since 2013. During that period, the SAA has gradually whittled down other rebel-held suburbs including Darayya, Moadamiyah, West Ghouta and Qaboun. In conjunction with taking control of Aleppo City, clearing the ISIS militants in Hama and ending the ISIS siege on Deir ez-Zour, the SAA has increasingly tightened its stranglehold on East Ghouta in recent months.

For much of the war, the suburb was supplied through its nearby farmlands, as well as the ample smuggling tunnels that ran towards the heart of the city, giving it the capacity to resist the siege. However, the steady whittling down of such resources has limited the rebels’ ability to supply themselves. Indeed, even before the bombardment escalated, the suburb was already witnessing cases of severe malnutrition and starvation. Things have only gotten worse since.

In response to the shelling by the SAA on East Ghouta, the largest rebel groups inhabiting the suburb, Jaish al-Islam and Faylaq al-Rahman, have intensified their shelling of the Damascus City centre, targeting the districts of Bab Touma, Bab Sharqi, Jaramanah and Rikn al-Din, causing dozens of casualties. The tit-for-tat shelling has only served to harden the views of two sides towards each other.

In response to the bloodshed, Kuwait and Sweden have proposed a Resolution to the United Nations Security Council that imposes a 30-day ceasefire across Syria. However, debates surrounding the Resolution have been dogged with challenges, particularly from Russia. With the outcome of the vote unclear, it remains to be seen if the bloodshed in East Ghouta will stop any time soon.