Syria War has led to massive destruction and loss of lives in the region. Almost all major superpowers like US, EU, and Russia are involved in the Syria War. Around 400,000 people remain in the insurgent-controlled Syrian enclave of East Ghouta in the suburbs of Damascus. Despite the declared humanitarian truce for the withdrawal of civilians, the bombing of the enclave continues. According to the Syrian Center for Political Studies, the Syria Civil War which has been going on since 2011, claimed the lives of more than 470,000 people.
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1. Syria War: What is happening in East Ghouta?
In February, the government of Syria and its allies intensified military operations in territories under the control of the rebels, including in East Ghouta, which was under the control of opponents of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad in 2012.
The territory was repeatedly bombed, which in recent weeks claimed the lives of more than thousands of civilians. According to UN estimates, 76% of residential buildings in East Ghouta were destroyed during the Syria War, and most of the 400 thousand inhabitants of the enclave now live in the underground shelters.
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Government forces are accused of using chemical weapons during strikes. At the end of February, one child was killed and another 13 people had difficulty breathing and dizziness – they had symptoms that occur when using chlorine. The authorities deny these accusations, sounding not for the first time. In August 2013, Western intelligence agencies accused Damascus of using nerve agent sarin in Ghouta, which could have caused the death of hundreds of people. President Assad rejected the accusations and blamed the rebels for the attacks. At the same time, he agreed to destroy the remaining stocks of chemical weapons in Syria.
2. The reaction of the International Community to the Syrian Crisis?
The UN proclaimed a 30-day truce in East Ghouta on February 24, and it was immediately violated. International pressure has forced Russia, the main ally of Assad, to enter a humanitarian pause, but East Ghouta continues to remain in the line of fire.
The Russian plan provided for a daily ceasefire for five hours, which was to allow civilians to leave the enclave along the corridor organized by humanitarian workers. Humanitarian aid to the residents of East Ghouta came only on March 5, when 46 trucks with products and medicines arrived in the enclave. Because of the fighting, they had to turn around before all the help was delivered.
3. The situation in Syria before the Conflict?
Before the beginning of fierce protests against the Assad regime, many Syrians complained about high unemployment, corruption among officials and the absence of political freedoms. In March 2011, teenagers who wrote anti-government slogans on the walls of a school in Daraa, inspired by the “Arab Spring” in neighbouring countries, were arrested by security forces. The incident caused protests across the country, which were severely suppressed by government forces, including through the use of weapons. The tension was mounting, and more people came up to the street demanding the resignation of Assad.
4. How did the Syria War begin?
Violent reprisals against protesters forced the opposition forces to take weapons in July 2011. Despite the President’s promise to “crush” what he called “terrorism receiving financing from abroad,” the violence in Syria increased: rebel groups united in hundreds of brigades to fight government forces and took control of villages and cities.
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In 2012, the fighting reached Damascus and the second most important city in Syria – Aleppo. By that time, the conflict had grown into something more than a confrontation between the government and the opposition. It became inter-confessional: the Sunni Muslim majority fought against the Alawite minority, which controlled the country.
5. Syria War: Who is fighting Whom?
Armed insurgents have changed greatly since the beginning of the conflict. The moderate and secular opposition has lost influence in favour of radical and jihadist groups, including the so-called “Islamic state” and “al Nusra Front” related to Al-Qaeda. The ISIS fighters created a “war in the war”, opposing the moderate rebels and the “al Nusra Front. Now the group’s activities are limited, although it continues to inflict sporadic strikes.
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The other side of the conflict is the Kurdish military located in the North of Syria which the United States assists with weapons and airstrikes. In 2015, Russia began bombing in Syria, helping the Assad regime after a series of defeats. Together with the support of the Lebanese Hezbollah, supported by Iran, this helped to restore the Assad regime. The biggest victory that Russia helped was the return of control over Aleppo in December 2016, which was one of the strongholds of the opposition,
6. Role of Russia in Syria War?
The most influential player remains Russia, which supports Assad because of its military interests. There are Russian naval and air bases in Syria. Shiite Iran also supports Assad. Syria is the main route from where Iran sends weapons to its allies – the militia of Hezbollah in Lebanon. Hezbollah sent thousands of soldiers to support the Syrian government forces. Probably, Tehran spent billions of dollars to support Assad’s troops and regime.
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Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the humanitarian break; this suggests that Moscow takes decisions before the Syrian authorities. Russia plays a key role in the Syrian civil war – it is air support that helps to deter insurgents and allows Syrian government troops to conquer new territories. Despite the humanitarian pause, Russia claims that it will continue to attack the forces of “jihadists”.
7. Syria War – Consequences
There are no exact figures of the victims during the Syria War, however, the Syrian Center for Political Studies says about 470,000 dead, the UN claims 400,000. The UN claims that more than five million people fled Syria, and at least 12 million – half the country’s population – were forced to leave their homes because of the war. This is the biggest exodus of Syrian refugees in recent years, and the tension is growing with neighbouring countries – Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and others receiving refugees.
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At least 10% of the refugees sought asylum in Europe, because of which disputes arose about the responsibilities and duties of countries. One-third of Syrians live below the poverty line. According to the UN, humanitarian aid is needed for 13.5 million people in Syria, including six million children. The cost of such assistance will be $ 3.2 billion.
It also claims that 70% of the Syrian population does not have access to drinking water, and every third Syrian life below the poverty line. At least two million children do not go to school. The situation in the more unstable regions is particularly difficult since the conflicting parties do not allow humanitarian organizations to come to their homes.