Syrian regime seizes new ground in Eastern Ghouta
Syrian government forces seized new ground from rebels in Eastern Ghouta on Friday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The regime’s elite Tiger Force unit has been involved in a days-long campaign against rebels in the Maraj area of Eastern Ghouta. The force captured two villages – Hawsh al-Dawahra and Hawsh Zreika – in addition to surrounding rural areas and farms.
But the UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said that the violence in Eastern Ghouta amounts to war crimes and are potentially crimes against humanity.
“Civilians are being pounded into submission or death,” he told Reuters.
More than 600 people have died since the Syrian regime began conducting airstrikes and bombarding the Damascus suburb 12 days ago.
On Saturday, the UN passed a Syria-wide 30-day ceasefire, but violence has continued.
Meanwhile, Russia has instead called for a five-hour daily “truce” to allow residents to evacuate Eastern Ghouta and for aid to be delivered.
On Thursday, the US State Department called Russia’s humanitarian plan a “joke,” saying that residents did not trust the Russian truce plan.
No civilians have left, nor have any aid convoys been delivered to the area despite the Russian announcement.
On Friday, UNCIEF’s Middle East director expressed hope that a convoy carrying supplies for 180,000 would reach the Douma area of Eastern Ghouta.
Geet Cappelaere said the Syrian government may allow the aid convoy into the besieged areaa. “We have an indication from the government of Syria that an aid convoy will be allowed in on 4 March, that is the day after tomorrow. We hope that indication turns into a bold commitment,” he said at a news conference.
“We are ready to move in,” Cappelaere added.
Among the supplies is medical equipment, which Cappelaere suggested would likely be stripped out.
The Syrian regime has previously removed medical equipment - which breaches international law - to prevent fighters from obtaining treatment.
“Between now and Sunday, let us be realistic, we have seen in the past on certain convoys supplies have been taken off, mainly surgical supplies,” he said.
US President Donald Trump spoke with French and German leaders on Friday to work together to implement the 30-day ceasefire. The pair called on Russia to get Damascus to comply to the terms.
Many residents in Eastern Ghouta fear the area will follow a similar trajectory as Eastern Aleppo – which, in 2016, was subject to a fierce ground assault following heavy bombardment that led to the area's recapture.
Meanwhile, activists have begun an #iamstill alive campaign to show solidarity with Eastern Ghouta residents.