Eastern Ghouta: Syria’s ‘hell on earth’
“Every once in a while the world wakes up to the fact that one of the greatest human-rights catastrophes ever is still going on in Syria,” said Jonathan Tobin in NationalReview.com. Over the past week, the forces of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad have relentlessly pummeled Eastern Ghouta (population 400,000), one of the last remaining rebel strongholds near Damascus. Once likened to the Garden of Eden, the district is now “hell on earth,” said the United Nations. Airstrikes, barrel bombs, artillery shells, and chlorine gas have killed more than 500 civilians there, many of them children, according to opposition activists. With every day that passes, the attack on Eastern Ghouta looks more like genocide, said Simon Tisdall in TheGuardian.com. Food supplies and medical assistance have been cut off by the regime, and 12 percent of children under 5 years old in the district are acutely malnourished. Even after the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a 30-day cease-fire, the bombing continued. “How many more children will die before justice is served?”
It’s tempting to think of this assault as one of the last great sieges in a devastating conflict, said The Economist. But rather than winding down, “Syria’s almost seven-year war is heating up and growing more complicated.” Emboldened by the collapse of ISIS, Assad has moved his militias north into the Kurdish enclave of Afrin, “where they hope to help Kurdish forces beat back an incursion by Turkey.” Russia and Iran continue to back Assad, while the U.S. arms and supports the Kurds. Israel, meanwhile, is increasingly alarmed by the prospect of Tehran “implanting” itself in the Golan Heights along its northeastern border. Some of these external powers “have already come into direct conflict.” In February, the U.S. killed scores of pro-Assad Russian mercenaries after they attacked a Kurdish-American base in eastern Syria.
What, exactly, is the Trump administration’s long-term plan? asked Jonah Shepp in NYMag.com. The U.S. has at least 2,000 troops in Syria, and recent reports suggest Trump is contemplating keeping U.S. forces there indefinitely “to combat Iran.” If we’re going to be involved “in yet another forever war,” the public and Congress deserve to know. In the meantime, the horror continues, with half a million bodies already in the ground, said Ben Wedeman in CNN.com. “No doubt the so-called international community will express concern over the bloodshed. Many more Syrians will die, with words of sympathy ringing in their ears.” ■