Civilians at Risk, as Syrian Government Establishes Corridor to Divide Rebel Forces in Ghouta

According to reports, the Syrian army and its Lebanese allies broke through rebel lines to create the corridor after capturing Mudeira. The towns of Douma and Harastahave been cut off from the rest of the enclave. Residents and local authorities in Douma are determined to get people out, as the siege tightens and the advances continue.

Allied with Assad, and funded by the Iranian regime through its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Hezbollah supports the Syrian government in a civil war that has gone on for nearly eight years.

This most recent advance by the government’s forces came after 22 days of intensive ground and air assaults endured by both civilians and the rebels in Ghouta. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Monitoring Group believes that some 1,100 people have been killed.

“Warplanes covered the sky in Eastern Ghouta [Saturday],” said Abdelmalik Aboud, an activist in the town of Douma. “The shelling was focused on the underground shelters and mosques and the places people have tried to hide in, due to the constant bombardment.”

The Syrian government claims that a humanitarian corridor exists for civilians to leave Ghouta, but civilians are left to risk death or starvation if they stay, or risk conscription into the Syrian army, or being detained and barred from their homes if they go. In Ghouta, safety is an elusive idea.

Doctors Without Borders say that of the 20 clinics and hospitals they support, 15 have been damaged, giving citizens seeking medical care few options. In the undamaged medical facilities, supplies are running low or have simply run out.

Russia wants to negotiate with the rebels to leave the enclave, but at least two groups are unwilling to do so because, for them, surrender won’t end well.

52 civilians have fled the enclave through the humanitarian corridor, according to the Russian military. They are the first to use the corridor since it was defined last week. U.N. estimates puts about 400,000 civilians still inside Ghouta.