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Warning of humanitarian ‘disaster’ in Eastern Ghouta

Wreckages of collapsed buildings are seen after Assad Regime's airplanes and artillery units hit the de-escalation zone of Arbin town in the besieged Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on January 06, 2018 [Ammar Al-Bushy / Anadolu Agency]
Wreckages of collapsed buildings are seen after the Assad Regime carried out arir strikes in the besieged Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on 6 January 2018 [Ammar Al-Bushy / Anadolu Agency]

An international aid organisation warned on Friday of a “humanitarian disaster” in Eastern Ghouta caused by the major bombing campaign by the Syrian government that has impeded essential relief operations. Eastern Ghouta is currently under the control of opposition factions.

CARE International said that heavy air strikes have killed more than 220 civilians in four days and made it difficult for aid workers to help nearly 400,000 people trapped in the area. “Our partners in Ghouta face difficulty in moving; how can they reach the most vulnerable people?” said Joelle Bassoul, the organisation’s director of public relations for Syria.

A social centre supported by CARE in Douma was among the buildings which were bombed, forcing those inside to hide underground. More than 4,000 families live in basements and air raid shelters in Eastern Ghouta, according to Save the Children.

The enclave east of the capital is supposed to be one of four zones for “easing tension” announced last year in an effort to reduce the level of violence. However, the regime has intensified its bombardment of Eastern Ghouta, where its forces are carrying out another major operation in Idlib province in the north-west, a second area included in the agreement to reduce tension.

UN relief officials called for a month-long truce to allow relief to be delivered to patients and those who have been wounded. On Thursday, though, the UN Security Council failed to back the proposal, which Moscow, the Syrian regime’s ally, said was “unrealistic”.

According to the Director of CARE’s Syrian programme, “If the air strikes, explosions and clashes continue or escalate, we will be like a fire brigade which tries to put out the fire somewhere, while the second, third and fourth fires break out elsewhere.”

Joelle Bassoul warned that, without a truce, the consequences will be catastrophic for civilians. “If a ceasefire is not reached and if there is no response,” she added, “we cannot imagine the scale of the humanitarian disaster that Eastern Ghouta will witness.”

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