The West and Humanitarian Situation in Eastern Ghouta: Care or Falsehood?

War is always a tragedy and human suffering. However, quite often a different logic is observed behind the words about caring for peaceful citizens: attempts to stop Syria’s purification from the contamination of terrorism.

The situation in Eastern Ghouta is changing rapidly. The operation of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has been going on for more than a week. Over this time, the government troops took control over a quarter of the enclave’s territory, and there is a real prospect of cutting it in two and blocking the largest two settlements – Douma and Harasta.

In this connection, a number of serious questions arise, most importantly:

1. How does this military operation correlate with the character of the de-escalation zone established in Eastern Ghouta during the Astana process?

2. How can the military operation be combined with the UN Security Council Resolution 2041 and the ceasefire in Syria?

3. The third, most crucial question concerns the impact of the military operation on the humanitarian situation in the enclave, on life and security of the civilian population.

The answers to all of these questions, despite the apparent contradictions between them, are in fact extremely clear.

The de-escalation zone in Eastern Ghouta has existed for a sufficient period of time, so we can make some conclusions about the situation there. As long as all the conflicting parties followed agreements to prevent military confrontation, the situation in the zone was stable, with only certain violations recorded. And this went on for many months, despite the fact that other forces opposed to the Syrian government included Jabhat al-Nusra and affiliated organizations, which, being designated as terrorist groups, were not subject to the de-escalation agreement. Therefore, although the SAA did not stop confronting terrorists, a significant part of it was assumed by opposition organizations, for example, Jaysh al-Islam as a participant in the Astana process.

However recently, especially after the SAA’s victory over terrorists in Idlib, the military groups in Eastern Ghouta began to take actions, which pose a direct threat to the nation’s capital. Situation became especially intolerable when schools, hospitals, residential quarters, as well as international organizations, including the Russian embassy and the Reconciliation Center, became targets of regular artillery and mortar shelling, with victims among civilians. Unfortunately, Jaysh al-Islam took part in this escalation. Thus, the results of the Astana decisions were thrown out, and the de-escalation zone status was turned off.

It is hardly worth looking for any contradictions between Moscow and Damascus. President Vladimir Putin unequivocally stated at a meeting with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurtz that Russia would not tolerate indefinitely the bombardments of Damascus from Eastern Ghouta. The relevant statements were also made by the heads of the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. Thus, the decision to conduct the operation was taken by the Syrian government and supported by Russia. As for Resolution 2041, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed that its action does not apply to the terrorists of Jabhat al-Nusra, and in this situation virtually all military groups in Eastern Ghouta acted as its henchmen.

Now about the humanitarian situation. Naturally, the situation and security of the Eastern Ghouta residents cause concern of the international community. And this concern is fully shared by Russia. That is why the Russian Federation initiated the organization of 5-hour daily ceasefire humanitarian pauses, as well as the creation of a humanitarian corridor for the evacuation of civilians from the war zone. And it’s not the fault of Russia or the SAA that the militants refuse to release civilians from the enclave, threatening to kill anyone trying to leave it.

The demand of militants to organize a humanitarian convoy as a condition for the release of civilians has been fulfilled. The humanitarian convoy of the United Nations, the Red Cross and the Red Crescent of the SAR arrived in Eastern Ghouta via the al-Wafideen checkpoint. Meanwhile, militants continued shelling of residential areas of Damascus, including two hospitals.

Western representatives speak about the sufferings of civilians, who allegedly continue to be oppositional to Damascus and support the militants. Some time ago this was true – in the sense of supporting the armed opposition. But lately the situation has changed dramatically. Residents not only go to demonstrations against militants, but there are cases of their armed resistance to terrorists.

Therefore, when today the West claims responsibility of Damascus and Moscow for the fate of hundreds of thousands of Eastern Ghouta civilians, a question arises: is it naivety, ignorance, or even falsehood?

It is enough to recall that, for example, in the million-populated Mosul no one spoke about humanitarian pauses, nor about humanitarian corridors. Instead, we saw carpet bombings, indiscriminate shootings in peaceful neighborhoods and brutal clearing operations. A similar picture was in the Syrian Raqqa.

Of course, war is always a tragedy and human suffering. However, quite often a different logic is observed behind the words about caring for peaceful citizens: attempts to stop Syria’s purification from the contamination of terrorism.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.