Indiscriminate Bombing In Ghouta Continues
Russia claims Damascus suburbs are occupied by large numbers of Al-Qaeda, Syrian rebels and ISIS. Others refute this claim and report Russia has refused to let opposition fighters leave the area since last November. This is an example of the brutality of Syrian and Russian forces regardless of enemy combatant numbers.
Russia rejected Thursday’s call by world leaders for a ceasefire in Ghouta, Syria where hundreds are dying under the barrage of attacks by Syrian and Russian forces as they attempt to rout rebels and ISIS.
Sweden and Kuwait presented the amendment calling for an immediate 30-day ceasefire because of the humanitarian disaster unfolding in the rebel-suburbs of Damascus. The amendment was intended to allow aid workers to deliver medical assistance, food and supplies to the suffering.
Russia rejected the ceasefire and presented its own amendment which called for an end to hostilities “when possible”. In a provision that appears aimed at U.S.-backed forces fighting against the Islamic State extremist group and al-Qaida affiliate, the Russian draft also stresses that “foreign military forces can operate in Syria only in coordination with official authorities.”
Russia accused the U.S. of supporting militant groups in a rebel-held pocket of Syria and denied the U.S.’s claim on Wednesday that Russian and Syrian warplanes were targeting civilians. A prominent Russian senator called on the Pentagon to join Moscow in bombarding the rebel-held Ghouta suburb.
Several diplomats expressed that Russia’s plan was unacceptable.
Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, accused global media outlets of a massive disinformation campaign saying they have failed to report on the thousands of fighters, including al-Qaida-linked militants, that were shelling Damascus from eastern Ghouta, then taking refuge in hospitals and schools and using civilians as human shields.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed that an al-Qaida-linked group blocked a proposal by Russia’s military earlier this week to allow opposition fighters to leave eastern Ghouta in exchange for ending the government’s offensive.
That contradicted an assertion by one of the largest rebel groups in eastern Ghouta, which told the AP that Russia refused to allow al-Qaida fighters to leave in November and accused Moscow of wanting to keep the fighters there as a pretext for a comprehensive military campaign. Al-Qaida’s Syria affiliate is not known to have many fighters in eastern Ghouta.
Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy chairman of the international affairs committee in Moscow’s upper house of parliament, said the U.S. should actually help Russia take out the remaining anti-government forces.
“It would be good if the Americans, along with us, took part in liberating eastern Ghouta from the terrorists and restored civilian life there instead of churning out unsubstantiated accusations,” Dzhabarov said.
Russian news reports said Moscow has beefed up its forces in Syria with additional warplanes, including its latest fighter jets. Two Su-57 fighter aircraft were recently filmed landing at Russia’s Khmeimim airbase along the Mediterranean coast.
The Russian military had previously announced it would begin testing the fighters in combat. They have been touted as a future rival to the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, which the US uses in patrols over Syria.
Russia has regularly used the conflict as a testing ground for its latest military technology and has even credited it for an uptick in arms sales. The Su-57, the first operational Russian jet to use stealth technology, has been plagued by cost and time overruns, and analysts said there could be a business rationale behind the deployment.
The Russians refused to comment on this allegation.
Government forces on Thursday concentrated their fire on hospitals, ambulances, apartment blocks and other civilian sites, according to rescue workers, war monitors, human rights groups, and several videos now emerging from the area. Medical personnel are working around the clock to care for the wounded.
“You can’t be above ground for even 15 minutes,” said a nurse in the town of Kafr Batna, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect the identity of family members still living in government areas. “At any moment I expect to have to treat my relatives for wounds,” he said.
A spokesman for the Syrian Civil Defense search-and-rescue group said eastern Ghouta was being targeted for “extermination.”
“This is a war against civilians,” said the spokesman, Siraj Mahmoud. “The civil defense is being targeted as they rescue women and children, evacuate civilians from targeted areas and put out fires.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on the European Union to step up pressure on Russia and Iran to end the violence in Syria.
“The regime is not fighting against terrorists, but against its own people, killing children, destroying hospitals, and this is a massacre to be condemned,” she told Parliament.