Humanitarian situation in Ghouta – expert comment

Ghouta, an eastern suburb of the Syrian capital Damascus, has been under Syrian military siege since 2013.  However, earlier this week (19 February 2018) it suffered what has been described as the worst attack in Syrian history, according to aid groups, including the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations.

Airstrikes have killed more than 100 people and injured hundreds more. Around 400,000 people live in the suburb.

Responding to the current situation in Ghouta, and as further attacks continue to be reported, Dr Karl Blanchet, Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine’s Health in Humanitarian Crises Centre, said:

“The persistent attacks and bombings on civilians in Eastern Ghouta are shocking and horrific. Hospitals are military targets, civilians new enemies.

“The International Humanitarian Law, specifically created to protect civilians, has been blatantly and deliberately flouted again and again. The Syrian situation is once more the obvious demonstration of the incapacity of our international legal system to function and control human cruelty and violence.

“These atrocities remind me of Sarajevo between 1992 and 1995: a civilian population under siege targeted by armed forces killing with children, women and men in full view of the international community. We humanitarians had access to a corridor to provide assistance to populations. But populations needed a political solution rather than perfused humanitarian aid. So many civilians are paying the ultimate price due to the same errors being repeated.

“This massacre has to stop through a strong international political decision. In the meantime, civilians need to be urgently evacuated.”