Civic institutions and NGOs in Wadi Barada valley northwest of Damascus appealed to the international community and the United Nations to take urgent action to save the lives of over 100,000 civilians trapped in the area.
In a statement released on Saturday, the civic institutions and NGOs in Wadi Barada valley warned against the possibility of massacres against civilians should regime forces and their allied Iranian-backed militias storm the area which has been subjected to constant aerial and artillery bombardment in recent days.
Local activists said that the Assad regime and its allied foreign militias are massing troops near the village of Ashrafiya on the outskirts of the valley in preparation for a large-scale ground attack on the rebel-held of villages of the valley. The regime build-up comes with intense bombardment by heavy artillery and barrel bombs despite the Russian-Turkish brokered ceasefire which took effect on Thursday.
Two barrel bombs and four airstrikes by regime jets hit the valley in the early hours of Saturday, while regime forces and the Hezbollah militia continue to pound the area with heavy artillery. The bombardment has caused complete power outage since it began last week, further increasing the suffering of civilians trapped inside the area. Regime forces have also been blocking the entry of food and medical supplies to the area for over a week.
The statement said that nearly five million people in Damascus and its countryside are facing a threat of water being cut off after regime jets bombed Ayn Alfija water pumping station, putting it out of service. The civic institutions and NGOs said they were ready to allow maintenance teams into the area to repair the facility once the regime bombardment stopped. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office)
President of the Syrian Coalition Anas Abdah met with the General Coordinator of the oppositions’ High Negotiations Committee (HNC), Riad Hijab, earlier on Friday to discuss the latest political and field developments in Syria.
Abdah and Hijab discussed the cease-fire agreement which was announced on Thursday, praising the efforts made by Turkey to reach the agreement. They reiterated the opposition’s readiness to deal positively with the agreement.
Abdah and Hijab called for stopping attempts by the Assad regime and its Iranian ally to sabotage the agreement as over 30 violations of the agreement by regime forces and the Iranian-backed foreign militias have been recorded with 12 hours of the announcement of the agreement, especially in the Wadi Barada valley of and eastern Ghouta in Rural Damascus.
Abdah and Hijab stressed that the peace talks due to be held in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana should not be a substitute for the Geneva conference or be held outside the umbrella of the United Nations. They underscored that any negotiations on Syria must be based on the Geneva Communiqué of 2012 and the UN Security Council resolutions, especially resolutions 2118 and 2254.
Abdah and Hijab stressed that the HNC represents the unified forces of the revolution and the Syrian opposition in any peace talks.
Abdah and Hijab praised the steadfastness being shown by the Syrian people and their firm determination to achieve their goals for freedom and dignity. This determination was exemplified in the anti-regime demonstrations that swept across Syria on Friday under the theme "the revolution brings us together." (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office)
The Syrian Coalition called on the Syrian people all across Syria and in the diaspora to make the day of Friday, December 30, an occasion to renew commitment to the revolution and its goals of freedom, dignity and ending tyranny in all its forms in Syria.
The Coalition said that the cease-fire agreement reached in Syria on Thursday and which took effect on Friday “offers a new opportunity for the Syrian people to reassert their rights to freedom, justice and dignity.”
Friday, December 30, is an occasion “to honor the fallen heroes; to remember the pain and suffering the detainees in Assad’s prisons are going through; to stand by the bereaved mothers; and to support the steadfast FSA fighters,” the Coalition said.
The Coalition urged the Syrian people at home and abroad to take to the streets to peacefully demonstrate and express their vision for future Syria and to stand by what is right against falsehood, tyranny and foreign occupiers. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office)
The Syrian Coalition expressed appreciation for efforts to reach a nationwide cease-fire in Syria, especially efforts made by Turkey.
In a statement released on Thursday, the Coalition called on all parties to work to ensure the success of the ceasefire agreement and to abide by its terms, warning that Iran will attempt to undermine the agreement as it seeks to further escalate the violence.
The Assad regime and armed Syrian opposition have signed a ceasefire agreement and agreed to begin a new round of negotiations to find a political solution to the conflict, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin announced on Thursday. The ceasefire is to come into force at midnight on Thursday.
The Coalition confirmed that the FSA groups will abide by the ceasefire agreement, but will reserve the right to respond to any violations by regime forces and the Iranian militias who violated all previous ceasefire agreements.
The Coalition pointed out that the cease-fire is one of the main articles set out in the UN Security Council resolution 2254 (2015). It stressed that the agreement is essential to ensuring the success of the political process, stopping the mass forced displacement, and the introduction of aid to besieged areas under the supervision of United Nations, including eastern and western Ghouta as well as Madaya, Wadi Barada valley in Rural Damascus, Alwaer district in Homs and all besieged areas across Syria. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office)
Head of the Syrian interim government, Jawad Abu Hatab, met with officials in relief organizations in the US state of Chicago as part of a two-day visit to the US that concludes on Friday. The visit aims to mobilize support for the Syrian revolution and the Syrian interim government.
Abu Hatab met with the Syrian and Arab and Muslim communities in Chicago and gave a speech at a gathering of about 8,000 people. He stressed the need to support the Syrian revolution in the face of the tyrannical Assad regime and its allies.
Abu Hatab highlighted the suffering the Syrian people have been facing for nearly six years as a result of the crimes committed by the Assad regime and its allies. He said that the Syrian people are facing all kinds of war crimes, including besiegement, displacement, and bombardment by internationally banned weapons.
Abu Hatab also stressed the need for supporting the Syrian interim government and other institutions of the Syrian revolution, especially those operating in the liberated areas. He noted that this support is crucial to paving the way for building a state of freedom, dignity and democracy. . (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office)
President of the Syrian Coalition Anas Abdah on Tuesday sent letters to 23 friendly countries and 4 international organizations urging them to take urgent, decisive action in order to ensure the safety of civilians in the area of Wadi Barada valley to the northwest of the capital Damascus.
Wadi Barada valley is being subjected to the fiercest bombardment and barbaric onslaught by the Assad regime and the Iran-backed militias who insist on continuing their military campaign aimed at forcing the local population out of their homes.
Abdah stressed that the mass forced displacement of civilians constitutes a war crime under the international humanitarian law.
Abdah called for stopping the barbaric onslaught on civilians in Wadi Barada valley and compelling the Assad regime to abide by the terms of the cessation of hostilities. He also called for sanctions on the Assad regime in case of noncompliance.
Moreover, Abdah called for taking real action to ensure that all sieges are lifted and immediate, unfettered humanitarian access as well as medical aid to the valley is allowed. He stressed the need to stop all forms of mass forced displacement of the civilian population; to conduct investigations into previous cases which amount to war crimes; and to hold to account those responsible for those crimes.
Reports coming out of Wadi Barada valley confirmed that heavy artillery and aerial bombardment on Ayn Alfija water pumping station by the Assad regime and its allies caused the contamination of the water of the spring with diesel, oil, and gasoline used to operate the pumps as well as large amounts of chlorine used to process the water. Abdah called for allowing the maintenance and repair of the water pumping station which should be operated and managed by the local population as was the case before.
Abdah stressed that such gross violations and crimes must not be allowed to be repeated, calling for the establishment of an office for the International Committee of the Red Cross in the valley and the other besieged areas to guarantee the implementation of UNSC resolutions, mainly UNSCR 2254 (2015) and UNSCR 2268.
The brutal escalation on Wadi Barada valley has so far caused the death of 23 civilians, 5 of whom are children, and injured more than 60 civilians, many of whom are in a critical condition. Moreover, the bombing has caused massive destruction in the villages of Kafr Alzait, Dayr Qanun, Ayn Alfija, and Bseima.
“The Assad regime and its Iranian ally are seeking to force civilians in Wadi Barada to leave their homes through the barbaric bombing and destruction of vital civilian facilities, and imposing a tight siege; it is a strategy that the regime has been using in all liberated areas in Aleppo, Rural Damascus and Homs,” Abdah said.
Civil institutions in Wadi Barada valley earlier stressed their rejection of any form of mass forced displacement of the population. They called for an end to the Assad regime policies aimed at changing the demography of key areas across Syria, and to prevent the repetition of another Srebrenica massacre in the valley. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office)
Officials at the Syrian Coalition said that the Assad regime and its Iranian ally are seeking to force civilians in many rebel-held areas to leave their homes through the bombing and destruction of vital civilian facilities; looting homes; and the forced recruitment of young people into the ranks of regime forces.
Mohammed Jojah, member of the Syrian Coalition’s political committee, said that the Assad regime’s bombing of Ayn Alfija water pumping station in the Wadi Barada valley in Rural Damascus is aimed at breaking the will of the civilians and rebels in the area to force them to agree to so-called reconciliation agreements whose terms are dictated by the regime.
Jojah stressed that such policies, especially the evacuation deals and so-called reconciliation agreements, are in fact war crimes as they are solely aimed at forcing the local population in many rebel-held areas out of their homes. He reiterated the Coalition’s rejection of these deals, urging the United Nations against sponsoring any agreement or a deal resulting in the mass forced displacement of the indigenous population. He noted that the Assad regime also seeks to regain legitimacy through these deals and agreements.
Member of the Syrian Coalition’s political committee Osama Taljou said that eastern Aleppo is being plundered by regime forces and their allied Iranian-backed foreign militias after the evacuation of the local population that followed a months-long brutal onslaught on the city.
The Assad regime and its Iranian ally are seeking to force people out of their homes in many areas across Syria, especially in Damascus and Aleppo, with the aim of bringing about a demographic change amid utter shameful silence by the international community, Taljou added. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office)
The Syrian Coalition condemned the war crimes the Iranian militias are committing against civilians in Aleppo, stressing that the international community bears responsibility for these crimes as it failed to prevent them.
Activists in Aleppo said that the Iranian militias summarily executed six young men in the neighborhood of Sakhour on Friday after those men returned to their homes in eastern Aleppo which completely fell to regime forces.
Member of the Syrian Coalition's political committee Yasser Farhan said that the Free Syrian Army and forces of the Syrian revolution will continue to resist the Russian and Iranian invaders until they are ousted from of all Syrian territory.
Activists in rural Aleppo said that the Assad regime and Russian air forces, having finished the brutal bombing campaign on eastern Aleppo, carried out intense airstrikes on western Aleppo over the past two days. Six civilians from one family were killed in airstrikes on the town of Atareb west of Aleppo on Saturday.
Regime forces have also significantly escalated aerial and artillery bombardment on Wadi Barada valley northwest of Damascus, pounding the rebel-held enclave with tens of barrel bombs and airstrikes over the past two days.
Farhan stressed that the international community has a responsibility to stop such crimes, pointing out that Russia is still not able to control the situation in Syria or sponsor any peace process.
Farhan raised questions about the UN Security Council resolution passed earlier this week which called for the deployment of UN observers in Aleppo. He said that the latest resolution has not yet been implemented, just as earlier UNSC resolutions on Syria which called for stopping attacks on civilians; unhindered delivery of aid to besieged and hard-to-reach areas; and the release of detainees were not implemented.
Iran is seeking to consolidate its presence in Syria through the deployment of sectarian foreign militias in key areas across the country, Farhan warned. (Source: Syrian Coalition's Media Office)
Member of the Syrian Coalition’s political committee Nasr Hariri said that Russia has to stop the war crimes against civilians in Syria and stop supporting the mass forced displacement by the Assad regime and the Iranian-backed foreign militias to prove it is serious about finding a political solution in Syria.
Hariri stressed that Russia has to bet on the Syrian people not the Assad regime and support a political process that aims to achieve the aspirations of the Syrian people through putting in place a real political transition in line with UN Security Council resolutions 2118 and 2254 as well as the Geneva Communique of 2012.
President of the Syrian Coalition Anas Abdah met with several Arab and Western officials to discuss ways to stop the regime’s crimes against civilians in Aleppo. He also sent letters to the UN Secretary-General, the UN Security Council, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Arab League, and 23 friendly countries urging them for action.
The Syrian Coalition and the Syrian interim government has set up a crisis cell to address the fallout of the brutal onslaught on eastern Aleppo and the mass forced displacement of its residents by the Assad regime and its allies. The Coalition helped organize a number of demonstrations in Turkey and European capitals to show solidarity with civilians in Aleppo and condemn the crimes by the regime and its allies.
Teams from the interim government received people who were displaced from Aleppo and provided them with shelter and basic needs in cooperation with local and international aid organizations. The teams also moved the injured and sick to hospitals in rebel-held areas while those seriously injured were transferred to Turkish hospitals.
Member of the Coalition Salwa Aktaw said that the safety of civilians remains a top priority for the Coalition. She pointed out that the brutal onslaught on eastern Aleppo and the systematic war crimes by Assad, Russia, and Iran against civilians and the destruction of the vital civilian infrastructure left the civilian population with no other option but to agree to the evacuation agreement.
Aktaw stressed that the evacuation deal is in fact a mass forced displacement that must be punished under international law and international humanitarian law, adding that the operation was orchestrated by Russia and Iran. She said that Russia’s actions in Aleppo have proved that it cannot claim to be trusted within the international system. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office)
Britain and France want the United Nations Security Council to ban the sale or supply of helicopters to the Assad regime and to blacklist 11 Assad regime military commanders and officials over chemical weapons attacks.
The pair have drafted a resolution that also seeks to blacklist 10 Assad regime and related entities involved in the development and production of chemical weapons and the missiles to deliver them. They could be subjected to a global asset freeze and travel ban by the UN Security Council.
The UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have found that the Assad regime forces were responsible for three chlorine gas attacks and that the Islamic State militants have used mustard gas.
Experts from the 15 Security Council members informally discussed the draft on Tuesday, diplomats said, and Assad regime ally Russia, one of five council veto powers, made clear it would not support the text.
The UN / OPCW inquiry found Assad regime forces have used helicopters to drop barrel bombs containing chlorine gas.
British UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said there must be "significant measures" to follow up on the panel's findings and called for sanctions. "We'll be pursuing that with our council colleagues and circulating a draft shortly," Rycroft told reporters on Wednesday.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said that those responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Syria must be held accountable, adding that he could not accept the justifications made by some countries to overlook the use of those weapons. Ayrault was making indirect reference to Moscow, which has so far vetoed six UN Security Council resolutions aimed to condemn or punish the Assad regime.
Member of the Syrian Coalition's political committee Fuad Alliko called on Russia not to block the resolution and to stop defending the crimes committed by the Assad regime inside the UN Security Council.
Alliko renewed condemnation of chemical attacks carried out by the Assad regime that claimed the lives of thousands of innocent civilians, calling for a mechanism to punish the perpetrators under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. (Source: Syrian Coalition's Media Office + Agencies)