The world has been witnessing the disturbing videos and images of little children getting killed in the Eastern Ghouta region of Syria. Trucks carrying corpses, innocent kids lying wounded in hospitals, children, and women trapped in a building rubble with a bloodied face is something that is giving chills to people across the globe. This is not something any of the nation or its citizen would even want for their enemy nation. So, why are the Syrian forces with the help of Russian warplanes escalating a relentless bombing and killing hundreds of its own, including the innocent women and children?
Why is the Bashar al-Assad regime attacking Eastern Ghouta and destroying its own people?
Eastern Ghouta is the last rebel stronghold near Damascus, the capital of Syria. It is one of the major area held by insurgents fighting the government of President Bashar Al-Assad. The area has been under the siege since 2013. This area which is on the outskirts of Damascus has been labeled as ‘de-escalation zone’ by Syrian government allies – Iran and Russia in an agreement with Turkey, the country which has been backing the insurgents.
Post mid-November 2017, the hostilities intensified in Eastern Ghouta (roughly 10 km east from central Damascus) which is dominated by Islamist faction Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, Harakat Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiyya, Harakat al-Din al-Zenki along with the ones that control the region majorly – Jaysh al-Islam and al-Rahman Legion. Besides, eastern Ghouta is home to 400,000 civilians out of which more than 50% population is under the age of 18 years.
Now that the entire region is so close to the capital of Syria, it is quite vital for the Bashar al Assad regime to recapture the area from the rebels. Currently, the regime is getting full-fledged support from Russian military as they did in late 2016 in an all-out assault to drove the rebels out from their enclave in Aleppo.
The Russian Support to the Assad Regime
While Russia supported the Syrian government through military aid from the very beginning, the Assad regime got its full support in 2015 when Russia intervened directly in the Syrian Civil War stating that it would fight terrorist. In the current scenario, the joint attack of Syria and Russia is not only to attack the IS but also to defeat the Anti-Assad rebel groups in the region so as to abolish any alternate form of control in the entire area.
The joint army together have been quite a wall to the rebel groups who possess American BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missiles tanks, anti-guided missiles, mobile artillery and are believed to have financial support from Qatar, Turkey, Saudia Arabia and the West.
Will the Regime and Rebels Stop for the Sake of the Civilians Trapped in Eastern Ghouta?
It is however very unfortunate that while the regime has been ordering air strikes, the rebel groups have been firing five motor shells on the only corridor crossing for the civilians to evacuate the rebel-held areas to move towards the Assad regime-controlled area in Damascus. Nevertheless, the civilians have been the ultimate victim from both the end of madness. What is further annoying is to know that the rebels have been preventing the civilians from leaving the war zone.
According to a report in Reuters, the Russian military did try to resolve the situation peacefully but the rebel groups ignored the calls to stop the resistance and lay down their arms. Mohammad Alloush, the rebel official and chief of Jaish al-Islam told Reuters that attempts were made to mediate a ceasefire but he ruled out the possibility of any pact to evacuate the locals of eastern Ghouta.
Currently, the UN Security Council have espoused Resolution 2401 demanding all parties to cease clashes with immediate effect for at least 30 days to provide a sustained humanitarian break. Although provisions have been made for the civilians to leave safer places, the rebels group are firing on the only crossing so as to prevent the civilians leaving the conflict zone. As of now, it is still not clear whether or not the civilians would be able to leave the war-torn Eastern Ghouta because Alloush has maintained his stance that only the wounded will leave and not the regular residents.