Ghouta Continues to Suffer as Accusations of Chemical Attacks Emerge

In Ghouta, the civilian population is dealing with the realities of a siege by Assad’s forces against their city as part of their efforts to defeat the rebels. Civilians have been driven underground and over a thousand have been killed in the last two weeks alone. Over the weekend, Syrian government forces were able to create a corridor that divides Ghouta, attempting to isolate rebel forces even further.

Supplies are limited and it is clear that the civilian population has few options. Leave through the humanitarian corridor and risk dealing with the Syrian army. Stay put and risk death or starvation. The choices are abysmal. The Syrian government claims the rebels are not allowing people to leave.

These standoffs are part of a long-term approach by the Syrian government to drive out the rebels, one enclave at a time. The results have been a humanitarian crisis for the Syrian people and violence for almost eight years.

On Saturday, the Syrian government captured the tow of Mesraba, essentially dividing Ghouta into three parts. This latest offensive began on February 18, and over 1,000 people have been killed, including women and children.

The Syrian government is following a previous pattern, one where they assault rebel strongholds to force evacuation deals, where the rebels surrender territory in exchange for safe passage to opposition areas in northwest Syria, along with their families and other civilians who do not want to live under Assad’s government.

In the midst of this, the Syrian Civil Defense has accused the Syrian government of hitting Irbin with chlorine gas, phosphorus bombs, and napalm. This is the second alleged attack in a matter of days. While the international community has banned the use of chemical weapons, Assad’s government has been creative in coming up with alternatives that are turning out to be deadly.

Medical professionals have previously stated that they could smell the chlorine on individuals that they treated. Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad denied any reports of chemical attacks during a conference in Damascus on Thursday.

“He’s isolating the two big cities [Douma and Harasta]in Eastern Ghouta – he’s weakening them and he’s supporting this military approach through a political strategy – separating them on the ground while trying to strike a deal with Jaish al-Islam,” said Marwan Kabalan, a Doha-based Syrian analyst.

The U.N. passed a resolution for a ceasefire in February, in an attempt to address the humanitarian crisis in Syria, but especially in Ghouta, which has a population of approximately 400,000. Aid convoys that have made it into the area have left with trucks still full because of the shelling. There is destruction everywhere, with people living in basements and underground areas to avoid the shelling.

This strategy of Assad and Russian forces is focused on getting the rebels to leave and allowing the Syrian government to retake the territory. They are cutting off the rebels, making it impossible for them to function. One such evacuation was already completed, as on Friday, 13 fighters and their families were evacuated out of Ghouta.

In Ghouta, the civilian population is dealing with the realities of a siege by Assad’s forces against their city as part of their efforts to defeat the rebels. Civilians have been driven underground and over a thousand have been killed in the last two weeks alone. Over the weekend, Syrian government forces were able to create a corridor that divides Ghouta, attempting to isolate rebel forces even further.

Supplies are limited and it is clear that the civilian population has few options. Leave through the humanitarian corridor and risk dealing with the Syrian army. Stay put and risk death or starvation. The choices are abysmal. The Syrian government claims the rebels are not allowing people to leave.

These standoffs are part of a long-term approach by the Syrian government to drive out the rebels, one enclave at a time. The results have been a humanitarian crisis for the Syrian people and violence for almost eight years.

On Saturday, the Syrian government captured the tow of Mesraba, essentially dividing Ghouta into three parts. This latest offensive began on February 18, and over 1,000 people have been killed, including women and children.

The Syrian government is following a previous pattern, one where they assault rebel strongholds to force evacuation deals, where the rebels surrender territory in exchange for safe passage to opposition areas in northwest Syria, along with their families and other civilians who do not want to live under Assad’s government.

In the midst of this, the Syrian Civil Defense has accused the Syrian government of hitting Irbin with chlorine gas, phosphorus bombs, and napalm. This is the second alleged attack in a matter of days. While the international community has banned the use of chemical weapons, Assad’s government has been creative in coming up with alternatives that are turning out to be deadly.

Medical professionals have previously stated that they could smell the chlorine on individuals that they treated. Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad denied any reports of chemical attacks during a conference in Damascus on Thursday.

“He’s isolating the two big cities [Douma and Harasta]in Eastern Ghouta – he’s weakening them and he’s supporting this military approach through a political strategy – separating them on the ground while trying to strike a deal with Jaish al-Islam,” said Marwan Kabalan, a Doha-based Syrian analyst.

The U.N. passed a resolution for a ceasefire in February, in an attempt to address the humanitarian crisis in Syria, but especially in Ghouta, which has a population of approximately 400,000. Aid convoys that have made it into the area have left with trucks still full because of the shelling. There is destruction everywhere, with people living in basements and underground areas to avoid the shelling.

This strategy of Assad and Russian forces is focused on getting the rebels to leave and allowing the Syrian government to retake the territory. They are cutting off the rebels, making it impossible for them to function. One such evacuation was already completed, as on Friday, 13 fighters and their families were evacuated out of Ghouta.

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