The Syrian people in Ghouta have dealt with the results of a siege by government forces for months, and supplies have continued to dwindle. Much of the population is living in basements or underground to protect themselves from the shelling by the Syrian government forces under Assad.
Now the Assad government has attacked Ghouta and created a corridor that divides the rebel forces into two different areas of the city. This offensive has cost countless lives, and the Syrian people are being faced with the reality that the indignities they have suffered are simply going to continue.
A military media outlet linked to both the Syrian army and its Lebanese allies said that pro-government forces broke through rebel lines to create the corridor after capturing Mudeira. The advance has cut off the towns of Douma and Harasta from the rest of the enclave. In Douma, residents and local authorities are trying to find a way to get their people out, as the siege tightens and the advances by the Syrian government continue.
Hezbollah, who is an ally of Assad, is a group funded by the Iranian regime through its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). It supports Assad as the Syrian government attempts to rout the rebels in a civil war that has been ongoing for nearly eight years.
The government’s most recent advance came as a result of 22 days of intensive ground and air assaults on both the rebels, but also the civilians still inside Ghouta. These attacks have killed over 1,100 people according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Monitoring Group.
“Warplanes covered the sky in Eastern Ghouta [Saturday],” said Abdelmalik Aboud, an activist in the town of Douma. “The shelling was focused on the underground shelters and mosques and the places people have tried to hide in, due to the constant bombardment.”
While the Syrian government has said that a humanitarian corridor exists for civilians to leave Ghouta, those civilians are left with few good options. Stay, and they risk death or starvation, but if they go, then they risk being conscripted into the Syrian army, being detained arbitrarily, or being barred from returning to their homes. Simply put, no one in the enclave of Ghouta believes the regime will treat them like a regular citizen again. Safety is an elusive idea in Syria right now, but that is especially true in Ghouta.
The international medical charity, Doctors Without Borders, said that 15 of the 20 clinics and hospitals they support have been damaged. This means that the citizens have few to no options for seeking medical care during this latest round of firing. Those that make it to one of the undamaged medical facilities might find that they are running low or have simply run out of the supplies needed to care for them.
Russia, an ally of Assad, has indicated that they want to negotiate with the rebels to leave the enclave, but at least two groups are unwilling to do so. For the rebels, surrender is not going to end well for them. According to the Russian military, 52 civilians have fled the enclave through the humanitarian corridor to the government held territory outside. These individuals are the first to use the corridor since it was defined one week ago. The U.N. estimates that there are 400,000 civilians still inside Ghouta.