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‘This is not a war. It’s a massacre’: dozens killed in Syrian enclave

Assad regime uses barrel bombs and attacks hospitals in rebel-held eastern Ghouta where dozens have been killed and thousands badly injured.


The child arrives at a makeshift hospital. Five hospitals were also bombed on Monday. Photo: Abdulmonam Eassa/AFP/Getty Images

Pro-regime forces continued to bombard the opposition-controlled enclave of eastern Ghouta in Syria on Tuesday, leaving dozens dead, after more than 100 people were killed and hundreds wounded on a day of “hysterical” violence on Monday.

The surge in the killing came amid reports of an impending regime incursion into the area outside Damascus, which is home to 400,000 civilians. More than 700 people have been killed in three months, according to local counts, not including the deaths in the last week.


An injured child looks on at people who were injured in bombings. Two hospitals had to suspend operations and one has been put out of service. Photo: Mohammed Badra/EPA

Five hospitals were also bombed on Monday in eastern Ghouta, which was once the breadbasket of Damascus but has been under siege for years by the government of Bashar al-Assad and subjected to devastating chemical attacks. Two hospitals suspended operations and one has been put out of service.

“We are standing before the massacre of the 21st century,” said a doctor in eastern Ghouta. “If the massacre of the 1990s was Srebrenica, and the massacres of the 1980s were Halabja and Sabra and Shatila, then eastern Ghouta is the massacre of this century right now.”


An injured child receives treatment at a hospital in Douma. Photo: Mohammed Badra/EPA

He added: “A little while ago a child came to me who was blue in the face and barely breathing, his mouth filled with sand. I emptied it with my hands. I don’t think they had what we do in any of the medical textbooks. A wounded child breathing with lungs of sand. You get a child, a year old, that they saved from the rubble and is breathing sand, and you don’t know who he is.

“All these humanitarian and rights organisations, all that is nonsense. So is terrorism. What is a greater terrorism than killing civilians with all sorts of weapons? Is this a war? It’s not a war. It’s called a massacre.”


An injured child receives treatment. Photo: Mohammed Badra/EPA

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitor, said 194 people had died in 4o hours – a toll that encapsulated the unbridled violence of the war in Syria. After seven years and interventions by regional and global powers, the humanitarian crisis has heightened instead of abating, as forces loyal to Assad’s regime and his Russian and Iranian backers seek an outright military victory instead of a negotiated political settlement.

Aid workers said the latest violence in eastern Ghouta, where 1,300 people died in 2013 after the Assad regime deployed sarin gas, has included the use of notorious barrel bombs. The weapons are so inaccurate that their use is seen as a war crime by human rights watchdogs. The regime has also used fighter jets and artillery bombardment, on top of the punishing siege.


Children wait at a makeshift hospital. Photo: Hamza al-Ajweh/AFP/Getty Images

“The situation in eastern Ghouta is akin to the day of judgment,” said Mounir Mustafa, the deputy director of the White Helmets, the volunteer group that rescues people from under the rubble of bombed buildings.

The White Helmets said one of its volunteers, Firas Juma, died on Monday while responding to a bombing.

In Geneva, the UN children’s fund issued a blank “statement” to express its outrage at the casualties among Syrian children, saying it had run out of words.


Injured children are treated. Photograph: Mohammed Badra/EPA

Medical organisations said at least five clinics and hospitals, including a maternity centre, were bombed on Monday, some of them multiple times. An anaesthetist was killed in the attacks.

“The bombing was hysterical,” said Ahmed al-Dbis, a security official at the Union of Medical and Relief Organisations (UOSSM), which runs dozens of hospitals in areas controlled by the opposition in Syria. “It is a humanitarian catastrophe in every sense of the word. The mass killing of people who do not have the most basic tenets of life.”

SOURCE: The Bloomgist/EPA/The Guardian, UK/Agencies


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