Siege Watch: Tenth Quarterly Report Part 1 – Eastern Ghouta February – April 2018
This is part 1 of the tenth quarterly report by Siege Watch, a project of PAX, which aims to provide the international community with timely and accurate information on conditions in Syria’s besieged communities. This report focuses on developments in Eastern Ghouta and Jobar from February – April 2018, during which period the besieged enclave was captured by the Syrian government and its allies in a final scorched earth campaign. It will be followed by a part 2 report which will cover developments in northern Homs, the Southern Damascus Suburbs, and other besieged areas. Data collected during the quarter from a network of Eastern Ghouta contacts and other sources showed that:
At least 1,700 people were killed, 5,000 injured, and 158,000 displaced, leaving entire towns empty. In some areas, upwards of 90% of the structures were destroyed.
The brutal campaign created a ‘demonstration effect’ and was used to push other besieged areas to surrender with significantly less force.
At least eight suspected chemical attacks were launched against civilians and fighters in Eastern Ghouta during the reporting period. In total, an estimated 45 civilians were killed and nearly 700 injured in these attacks.
More than 65,000 people, most of them civilians, were forcibly displaced to Idlib and Aleppo in northern Syria as part of the final surrender agreements.
In the wake of the capture of Eastern Ghouta and Jobar by pro-government forces, there were reports of field executions, detentions, threats, and widespread looting. Thousands of men from Eastern Ghouta were forced into mandatory military service.
The end of the siege of Eastern Ghouta highlights the government’s demographic engineering strategy. Roughly 200,000 people remained in the enclave by the end of the reporting period – around half of the estimated population from before the offensive began, and just 18% of the area’s pre-war population.
As the pinnacle of the Syrian government’s “surrender or die” campaigns, the offensive against Eastern Ghouta and Jobar included an unprecedented military onslaught and caused a humanitarian catastrophe. During the two-months long final offensive, the Syrian government and its allies acted with impunity, committing a slew of human rights violations and war crimes, including: targeted attacks on medical centers and other critical civilian infrastructure, widespread indiscriminate attacks on populated areas, the use of internationally banned weapons intended to spread terror, large-scale forced displacement, and more.