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Withholding Medical Supplies Is a Vicious Part of the Ghouta Siege
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Sieges are a merciless business, never more so than in Syria. As a UN aid convoy entered Eastern Ghouta, the World Health Organisation said that Syrian government security had forced the removal from its trucks of “all trauma kits, surgical, dialysis sessions and insulin”. Some 70 per cent of the medical supplies being sent were rejected according to a WHO official.

There is something disgustingly mean and vicious in targeting those who will die without dialysis or insulin. Depriving the sick of their last hope of life illuminates in the grimmest of ways how the siege of Eastern Ghouta, as in the other sieges that have been such a feature of the wars in Syria and Iraq, puts unbearable pressure on the weak and the vulnerable.

The aid convoy had already been cut back in size from food for a month for 70,000 to 27,500 people, though there is meant to be a second convoy in a few days. Even if this is not again depleted by government security forces, it is far too little for the 393,000 people estimated to be in this besieged eastern part of Damascus, though the chaos is such that nobody knows the true figure.

The siege is following much the same course as that of East Aleppo in 2016. The Syrian government is determined to retake the rebel-held zone by indiscriminate shelling and bombing combined with cutting off all supplies of food, fuel and medicine. It is making a ground assault that is crumbling the edges of the beleaguered enclave which is being systematically squeezed to death. The aim of the multiple assaults is to chop the area into smaller pieces that can be dealt with separately.

Sporadic aid convoys in such circumstances are really only a public relations ploy by the Syrian government and the Russians to ease the pressure of outraged international opinion. They do not affect the overall military course of the siege. Five years ago, President Bashar al-Assad held the centre of Damascus which was ringed – though they never quite linked up – by rebel-held districts that were isolated from the rest of the capital by checkpoints and were intermittently bombarded.

Almost all these opposition enclaves have been forced to surrender and the only sizeable one still holding out has been Eastern Ghouta. After 2013 it was loosely blockaded, but access was fairly easy through one main entry and exit point and an elaborate system of tunnels. Both of these were closed in 2017 and the blockade turned into a regular siege conducted very much on the medieval principles of starving and battering those surrounded into submission.

The main weapon in all cases is air strikes and artillery because armies know that the only alternative is a ground assault and street fighting in which the attackers will suffer heavy losses. This is as true of the US-led coalition’s assault on Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria last year as it is of the Syrian government and Russian assault on East Aleppo and Eastern Ghouta. The US-led air war is supposedly more humane and directed solely at military targets. But I was in Raqqa last Sunday and the overwhelming impression is of universal destruction similar to that of the carpet bombed German cities in the Second World War.

Proof of this is emerging. A detailed study of 150 air strikes by The New York Times last year revealed that, while the US air force claimed that one in 157 of its air strikes led to civilian deaths, the real figure was probably one in five. In the Qaiyara district south of Mosul, the US said its aircraft had killed one civilian, but the real figure was 43 dead, 24 of them women and children. Casualties in the Old City of Mosul were devastating because air strikes were focused on a smaller and smaller area as Isis shot anybody who tried to escape.

What should now be done to limit civilian casualties in Eastern Ghouta? As in East Aleppo, the enclave’s fall is inevitable and anything that prolongs the battle there will only lead to more dead and disabled. Humanitarian corridors are needed, but these are not much good without UN monitors ensuring the ceasefire is real. Most of the discussion is about what should happen to the civilians, but the outcome of these sieges is invariably determined negotiations between the besiegers and the armed opposition defenders, who, in the case of Eastern Ghouta, are said to number 10,000 fighters. In past sieges, these have been given the choice of an amnesty of some description or evacuation with light weapons to a rebel stronghold, almost invariably Idlib in the north-west of Syria.

None of these past prescriptions quite fit Eastern Ghouta because of its size and because rebel fighters like the Army of Islam, which controls Douma, the largest population centre under attack, do not have another base to which they can go. But even the most successful evacuations are stories of misery and terror which will continue so long as the war in Syria goes on.

Where foreign powers could do most good is by preventing such sieges starting in the first place. Once besieger and besieged are locked in unequal combat there is little the outside world can do about it, aside from a general wringing of hands.

It so happens that the makings of another Eastern Ghouta is under way in northern Syria, though with little of the publicity given to the situation in Damascus. The Turkish army and its Arab militia allies are surrounding the Kurdish enclave of Afrin, which has much the same population as Eastern Ghouta. A few days ago Turkish shelling and bombing had killed 204 civilians, 61 of them children according to authorities in Afrin.

ORDER IT NOW

The Kurds say they will fight to the end and quite certainly mean it. The only outlet from Afrin not held by the Turks or their allies is through a road held by the Syrian government which might be closed at any time. The impending siege of Afrin is likely to be as bad in terms of human suffering as anything we have seen in the Syrian Civil War but, unlike Eastern Ghouta, there may still be time to avert it.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Syria 
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  1. The fact is that the western backed mercenary barbarians are themselves keeping people from leaving and medical supplies would, in any event, be used to patch up the raghead element, not the civilized captives. Blaming Syria and its supporters for this is doing the propaganda bidding of a power structure whose evil is now apparent to all except those who only believe the propaganda wurlitzer (using the CIA term) which controls the media in most western countries.

    • Agree: L.K
  2. Wow, now the sadists of ISIS are withholding insulin from diabetics just to watch them die, a new low, even for them. Beheadings got old, I guess. After the war is over we need to build an Arabocaust museum in the hospital where visitors can stand in a room with wax-dummy dead diabetics.

    • Replies: @gustafus
  3. “the enclave’s fall is inevitable and anything that prolongs the battle there will only lead to more dead and disabled. Humanitarian corridors are needed, …”

    Where on earth did anyone get the idea that war doesn’t involve killing the enemy?

    “Most of the discussion is about what should happen to the civilians,”

    In modern 4th and 5th-generation war, no-one is a civilian. The opposing army is the entire populace. Thanks to democracy, you can no longer conquer a people by decapitating it. Wars these days are genocidal by necessity. This is why the civilised west has been losing them.

    “The Kurds say they will fight to the end and quite certainly mean it.”

    Exactly.

    • Troll: Kiza
  4. Renoman says:

    Dave is right, this is no different than Aleppo or Mosel it just happens to be the fashion of the day for the MSM and we all know who’s behind that.

  5. “Where foreign powers could do most good is by preventing such sieges starting in the first place.”

    How about by not paying, arming and training “the rebels”? I know, that’s crazy talk.

  6. I am sorry that P. Cockburn is repeating this (I think it is) lie. I have looked at the WHO’s website for the last three days since I read this piece and there is no mention of this outrageous behaviour. OTH this story does seem to come, not from the WHO but from the State Department’s Heather Nauert, who says she got it from Stephanie Dujarric, (who used to work for ABC) who says she got it from an unnamed official of the World Food Program. I suspect that Cockburn got this story about the Syrian government robbing the convoy of desperately needed medical supplies, not from Damascus, not from an official of the WHO, but from the editors of the Independent in London.

    • Replies: @Wiinston Smith
  7. L.K says:

    P. Cockburn is basically a propagandist who, here and there, tells a few obvious truths.

  8. gustafus says:

    EARTH TO READERS – we can either let Assad kill them en masse – and wring our hands – feigning sympathy….or let them continue to breed and migrate.

    I vote MASS SLAUGHTER BEFORE THEY MIGRATE to do more harm.

    Sorry, when I see carpet bombing in Syria, Iraq, or any of the shitholes that produce endless human debris – I turn the channel or the page . The GRIM REALITY IS THAT THESE ARE NOT JUST WORTHLESS BREEDERS …..they are dangerous breeders.

    WE SAVED THE CHILDREN — and now they’re comin for us in our countries, neighborhoods and beds. The elites get to live behind walls and send their kids to private enclaves. WE DON’T

    Ask a white in Melbourne or Cape Town….. sorry – better to take em out en masse at home.

    I vote EBOLA and carpet bombs.

    • Replies: @Wiinston Smith
  9. gustafus says:
    @Hippopotamusdrome

    WHO CARES? The more who die THERE, don’t come here,.

    Sorry – it’s kill or be killed time. NOTHING ASSAD DOES IS TOO HARSH – so long as it’s confined to the demons of the M.E.

  10. Cockburn using CIA, MI6 and State Dep talking points.
    Point 1 – Exaggerate number of potentials victims : ” 393,000 people estimated to be in this besieged eastern part of Damascus ” .
    Point 2 – Describe Syrian army as war criminals ” indiscriminate shelling and bombing” . Aleppo liberation show that shelling and bombing were pinpoint strikes, SAA having inside East Aleppo intel officers that gave it precise locations of djihadist command centers, positions and depots.Any General Staff officer can confirm.
    Point 3 - ”  starving the civilians “, clearly a joke, dhijahists seems to be not starved at all and I bet than after liberation we will find in East Ghouta huge stockpiles of food, like in Aleppo.
    Point 4 – Minimize and smear SAA efforts to evacuate civilians .” Humanitarian corridors are needed, but these are not much good without UN monitors ensuring the ceasefire is real”. Forget to tell reader that the humanitarian corridors are under constant fire from djihadists to prevent civilians, their human shields, to left East Ghouta.
    Point 5 – Don’t be afraid to tell lies ” But even the most successful evacuations are stories of misery and terror “. Evacuations so far have been successful, except one when djihadists use a car bomb to kill around 200 people, mostly chilfdren leaving Fua.
    We clearly need to lauch a crowfunding to allow Oussama ben Cockburn to rejoin his djihadist friends in East Goutha

  11. Oh, I forget
    Army of Islam, which controls Douma, the largest population centre under attack, do not have another base to which they can go.
    Very sad , indeed, beheaders have nowhere to go !
    Send them to Germany, UK,France or USA.
    Or hell.
    I prefer hell, seems to be fit for them.

  12. @foolisholdman

    Wow, this is a shocker.

    Also good detective work by this poster.

    I akso suspect Patrick Coburn got this story from the Independent in Londom.

  13. @gustafus

    Well, I vote for stopping using and funding the highly dangerous Jihadist paramilitaries to fulfil foreign policy objectives.

    The rudest comments have been made by insiders in the US and Britain.

    “These policies of madness, these mad policies, these policies of clinical insanity”.

    I am not making it up.

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