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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Eastern Ghouta is a blot on the conscience of the world

Russia's airstrikes on the besieged, starving community belie its claim to only target extremists

Reuters / Bassam Khabieh
Reuters / Bassam Khabieh

At the end of last year, in a rare pretence of humanity, Bashar Al Assad granted permission for a handful of critically ill patients to be evacuated from the besieged area of Eastern Ghouta, the last rebel-held enclave near Damascus. Just a fortnight later, he and his Russian sponsors are back dropping “seismic missiles” on the region. Civilians who were not incinerated by the bombs were crushed by collapsing buildings. At least 28 people, among them seven children and 11 women, were killed on Wednesday alone. Another 25 people, including nine women and two children, were killed on Thursday. It took mere days for the Mr Al Assad to drop his charade of granting respite to those suffering at his hands.

The inhabitants of Eastern Ghouta have endured suffering in every form since the siege began in 2013. The regime has starved, gassed, shelled and bombed them. Its population of 400,000 represents more than 90 per cent of those under siege in Syria, making it, in the words of UN envoy Staffan de Mistura, the "epicentre of suffering". Food and medicines are scarce and the once lush landscape is now replete with rubble.

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According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Russia's warplanes are responsible for the latest fatal air raids, despite having announced a partial withdrawal from Syria. There are those who argue that concessions must be made to Russia to protect lives – but this is an argument premised on the supposition that Moscow will honour its pledge to only target hardline extremists. Eastern Ghouta, where the Syrian regime has put a stranglehold on a besieged community with the backing of the Russian military, puts the lie to that claim. Its population is being starved and bombed to death while living in inhumane conditions; Eastern Ghouta remains a blot on the conscience of the world. The scale of their slaughter in Eastern Ghouta is matched only by the silence of the international community. The world has shamefully surrendered to Mr Al Assad, granting him, by virtue of its inaction, the licence to kill without consequence. Mr Al Assad and his backers are committing bloodshed in Eastern Ghouta – but the world is complicit in them.

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