Vice-president of the Syrian Coalition Abdul Rahman Mustafa denounced the massacre the Assad regime committed by shelling a children's school in the town of Jisreen in the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta on Tuesday. At least seven civilians, mostly schoolchildren, were killed and many others were wounded in the shelling on the school. The massacre coincided with the launch of a new round of talks in the Kazakh capital Astana, of which previous rounds resulted in the “de-escalation zones” agreement.
Mustafa called on the international community to shoulder its responsibilities to stop the crimes being committed by Assad with the help of Russia and Iran; to lift the siege of eastern Ghouta; and save its people and children.
Regime forces also carried out artillery shelling on the town of Misraba, killing four civilians, including two children and the injury of several civilians. The towns of Harasta, Douma, Ayn Tarma as well as the district of Jobar in eastern Damascus were also subjected to similar attacks. Civil defense workers checked the damage caused by the shelling and evacuated the wounded from the areas targeted by shelling.
Local non-governmental organizations in eastern Ghouta demanded that guarantors of the “de-escalation zones” agreement fulfil their commitments and exert pressure to ensure humanitarian aid is allowed to reach civilians trapped in eastern Ghouta. The NGOs called for the immediate opening of crossings to allow the entry of goods and medical evacuation for those who are critically ill and wounded.
The NGOs also called for the establishment of a permanent medical center in eastern Ghouta by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to be protected from bombardment by Russian and the Assad regime forces. They stressed that the center is urgently needed to provide necessary health care for hundreds of children who are on the verge of dying of starvation and disease. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
Elections were held in the FSA-held town of Harasta Rural Damascus to elect members of the provincial council under the supervision of the Ministry of Local Administration of the Syrian interim government (SIG).
Civil society organizations and local media outlets monitored the elections which were attended by various official and revolutionary bodies and residents of the town.
Despite the brutal onslaught being launched by the Assad regime and the allied sectarian militias as well as the four-year siege they impose on the area, people of eastern Ghouta insisted on achieving their dream of building a democratic state that guarantees freedom and dignity for all citizens.
An electoral committee was set up to oversee the elections which saw the participation of 71 electoral bodies to elect 17 members of the provincial council. A total of 41 members of the electorate have run for the elections.
According to SIG, the electoral process will be completed in the rest of the districts in the province next week to elect a president of the council, a vice-president, and ten members of the Executive Office representing all districts of Rural Damascus in its third session.
The local council in Harasta east of the capital Damascus previously held elections in the town with widespread participation of women for the first time in late August. Up to 120 women participated in the vote in August.
Meanwhile, the ferocious campaign by the Assad regime on eastern Ghouta continues unabated. At least 14 civilians, including journalist Qais al-Qadi who works as correspondent for Al-Jisr TV channel, were killed in the regime’s bombardment on eastern Ghouta on Sunday. Cameraman Omar al-Dimashqi was also injured while he was reporting on the relentless bombardment.
The Assad regime forces also bombed a popular market in the town of Hammouriya, killing nine civilians, including women. Three civilians, including a child, were also killed in bombardment by regime forces on the town of Saqba.
Regime forces also carried out artillery and rocket shelling on the towns of Douma, Kafarbatna, Ayn Tarma, Hizrima, Housh Aldawahra, and Jisreen as well as on the district of Jobar in eastern Damascene. The shelling resulted in many civilian casualties, including children when artillery shells hit a school in Kafarbatna. The outskirts of the village of Beit Jinn in the western Rual Damascus came under barrel bomb attacks.
On Saturday, doctors in eastern Ghouta appealed to the international community and friends of Syria to press for the opening of humanitarian corridors into the besieged area and the introduction of baby milk and medicine. They said that there are 120 babies suffering from malnutrition as result of the lack of food, medicine and infant formula. They also warned that at least 40 children are threatened by death due to severe dehydration.
The Assad regime forces besiege over 350,000 civilians in a small geographical area comprising about 20 towns and villages.
The Syrian Coalition called upon the international community, especially the UN Security Council, to shoulder its responsibilities towards the ongoing suffering of civilians trapped in eastern Ghouta. The Coalition stressed that action needs to be taken urgently to ensure the immediate lifting of the siege on eastern Ghouta and all besieged areas across Syria. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department + Agencies)
The Syrian Coalition called on the UN Security Council to take action under Chapter VII of the United Nations to hold the Assad regime accountable for the crime of using chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhoun. A panel of UN investigators has confirmed that the Assad regime is fully responsible for the sarin attack on the rebel-held town.
Yasser al-Farhan, member of the Coalition’s political committee, said that action must be taken in accordance with Article 21 of UN Security Council resolution 2118, which called for action under Chapter VII in cases of non-compliance with the surrender or use of chemical weapons.
The Assad regime repeatedly used chemical weapons, poisonous and prohibited gases, committed war crimes and bombed civilian areas in violation of the Geneva Convention and UN Security Council resolutions 2118, 2209, 2235 and 2254. The Assad regime would not have dared to commit these crimes had it not been for the lukewarm international positions which are indifferent to the lives of civilians.
Al-Farhan stressed that Russia's continued blocking of international justice and its repeated use of veto power against the international consensus at the UN Security Council requires member states to act outside the Council. He said that action is urgently needed within the United Nations or in a coalition established under a special agreement or taken unilaterally to save the Syrian people and the values of the free world.
Experts from the UN and the chemical weapons watchdog blamed the Assad regime the April 4 sarin nerve gas attack that killed over 90 people in Khan Sheikhoun.
Their report, which was submitted by the UN Secretary-General to the UN Security Council on Thursday, said leaders of the expert body are "confident that the Syrian Arab Republic is responsible for the release of sarin at Khan Sheikhoun on April 4, 2017."
The report said the JIM (Joint Investigative Mechanism) experts talked with 17 witnesses in addition to those interviewed by the OPCW fact-finding mission and collected and reviewed material the OPCW did not have. It said the experts also obtained "substantial information" on activities by the Syrian air force on April 4.
The experts determined sarin was released from a crater in the northern part of Khan Sheikhoun between 6:30 a.m. and 7 a.m. April 4.
According to the report, the JIM leadership panel concluded the Syrian military was behind the sarin attack based on the following "sufficient, credible and reliable evidence: Aircraft dropped munitions over Khan Sheikhoun between 6:30 a.m. and 7 a.m. on April 4; Syrian aircraft were "in the immediate vicinity" at that time; The crater was created that morning; The crater "was caused by the impact of an aerial bomb traveling at high velocity."
Responding to the report, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said: "Today's report confirms what we have long known to be true. Time and again, we see independent confirmation of chemical weapons use by the Assad regime." Clearly referring to Russia, she said: "In spite of these independent reports, we still see some countries trying to protect the regime. That must end now." (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department + Agencies)
The Syrian Coalition urged Turkey, as a guarantor of the “de-escalation zones” agreement to step up efforts to stop attacks by the Russian and Iranian forces on Syrian civilians in Deir Ezzor, rural Aleppo, eastern Ghouta and western Ghouta in the Damascus suburbs.
The remarks were made at a meeting between the Coalition’s political committee and a delegation from the Turkish foreign ministry which included Deputy Assistant Foreign Minister Sedat Ünal and the Turkish official in charge of the Syrian file Ayşe Can Karabetri.
The Turkish delegation pointed out that Turkey seeks to ensure protection for Syrian civilians, release detainees, lift the sieges, and maintain calm in Idlib through the upcoming Astana meeting.
The delegation reaffirmed Turkey's full support for the Coalition and the opposition High Negotiations Committee in the upcoming round of talks in Geneva. It stressed the importance the opposition uniting behind the guiding principles of the revolution that would help reach a full political transition in Syria.
The Turkish delegation also stressed the importance of cooperation between Turkey and the Coalition and its institutions, especially the Syrian Interim Government (SIG) inside the Syrian territory. It pointed out that Turkey's role in Idlib is to establish military points to monitor the “de-escalation zones” agreement as it stressed the importance of cooperation with the Coalition and the Free Syrian Army.
For its part, the Coalition’s political committee underscored the importance of the transfer of the management of the border crossings to SIG as a key step to strengthen the government's supervision of the sovereign files in the liberated areas. The committee called on Turkey to intervene to ensure an end to bombing of civilians by Russia and Assad’s allied militias and the release of detainees in the prisons of the Assad regime.
The committee stressed that the Coalition continues to implement the necessary reforms to activate the work of its departments and institutions and to enhance its presence inside Syria. The committee previously held a meeting inside Syria and seeks to hold further similar meetings to reach out to local bodies and councils and offer services to the civilian population in the liberated areas. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
Abdel Rahman Mustafa, Vice-president of the Syrian Coalition, said that putting the border crossings in the Shield of the Euphrates area under unified management by the Syrian Interim Government (SIG) is a positive step towards building the new Syria and institutionalizing the state.
Mustafa pointed out that the revenues coming from the crossings would be collected in one treasury and put at SIG’s disposal. He described the move as especially important to the efforts to achieve greater unity among the opposition on other levels.
The revenues coming from the crossings will be distributed fairly and equitably to SIG, local councils and, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and will be used to develop service and development projects for the Syrian people.
The Syrian Coalition said that the agreement on putting the border crossings under a unified management and the merger of the Free Syrian Army groups, which was reached on Tuesday, October 24, represents an important and positive step towards building a new Syria and a state that is based on the rule of law and institutions.
In a press release issued on Wednesday, the Coalition said that agreement had put forward a two-phase plan to merge the FSA groups into a national army comprising corps, divisions, and brigades. It stressed that agreement is an important and necessary step on the road to building a real national army.
The Coalition called upon all forces of the Syrian revolution and friends of the Syrian people to support this agreement and ensure that all its items re implemented according to the agreed upon plan.
The agreement came at the conclusion of important meetings that brought together Vive-president of the Syrian Coalition Abdulrahman Mustafa, representatives of the Syrian Interim Government (SIG), officials of SIG’s Ministry of Defense, commanders of the Free Syrian Army groups, and representatives of the Turkish government. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
The Syrian Coalition said that the Russian veto aimed at obstructing JIM’s efforts is a tacit admission of Assad's total and direct responsibility for the crime of using chemical weapons in Syria.
In a press release issued on Wednesday, the Coalition strongly condemned Russia's use of its veto power on the UN Security Council on Tuesday preventing the renewal of the mandate for the United Nations-Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM).
“It is the ninth time Russia has used its veto power at the UN Security Council to hinder international action on Syria in an attempt to shield perpetrators from answering for their actions. The Russian position risks opening the door to a world in which war criminals commit crimes without any fear of the consequences,” the Coalition stressed.
The Coalition pointed out that in every time Russia used its veto power its aims was to shield the Assad regime and give it more time to kill and displace more Syrian civilians.
“Russia's full responsibility for the current situation makes it imperative that the rest members of the international community take action and shoulder their responsibilities to maintain international peace and security and free the Syrian people and the world from the terrorist Assad regime which has long ruled the Syrian people with the use of iron and fire.” (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
Nizar al-Haraki, the Syrian Coalition’s Ambassador to Qatar, rejected attempts by some members of the international community to depict the situation in Syria as a civil war. He stressed that what is taking place in Syria is a blatant aggression and systematic killing by Bashar al-Assad and his allies against the Syrian people for nearly seven years.
During a speech at a sit-in held in solidarity with the people of Deir Ezzor, Al-Haraki said that “the crimes being committed in Deir Ezzor are a disgrace to humanity, especially that the international anti-ISIS coalition is involved in the destruction of the city." He reaffirmed that all Syrians stand on the side of the people of Deir Ezzor, stressing the need to support and defend them.
“Syrians abroad must spare no effort to support and help our people at home,” Al-Haraki said. He pointed out that the atrocious crimes taking place in Deir Ezzor are not the first of their kind, stressing the need to confront Assad's plans and eradicate the ISIS extremist group once and for all.
Akram Tomeh, Deputy head of the Syrian Interim Government (SIG) who is based in besieged eastern Ghouta, spoke to participants in the sit-in via video chat. He said that “many nations converged on Deir Ezzor in particular and Syria in general. He pointed out that the city suffered the worst crimes in the history of the revolution, most notably the killings, besiegement, starvation, and the targeting of infrastructure.
The Syrian embassy in Doha on Tuesday organized a sit-in in solidarity with the people of Deir Ezzor province and to pay tribute to the victims who were killed and injured in the ongoing brutal campaign by the Assad regime forces on the province.
The sit-in was attended by a large number of members of the Syrian community in Doha who gathered to show support for their brothers in Deir Ezzor. They expressed their solidarity even through the simplest means and all possible ways to convey the voice of the Syrian people at home and shed light on their tragedy. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
Nasr Hariri, head of the delegation of the opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) to Geneva talks, said that "the survival of Bashar al-Assad risks hindering political solution in Syria," stressing that "the Syrian opposition is capable of leading political transition in Syria."
Hariri, who is visiting the United States to meet with officials of the US Congress and President Donald Trump’s administration, said the visit will include several states, most notably New York and Washington D.C.
Hariri pointed out that the visit, among other things, aims to reach out to the Syrian community and Syrian civil society organizations in the United States. Hariri is set to attend a conference on 26-27 October that will be organized by a group of Syrian organizations and attended by the Syrian community in the US.
“The war on terror as well as the situation in the provinces of Raqqa, Idlib and Deir Ezzor currently dominate the Syrian scene," Hariri said. He added: “In addition to these key issues, we will also discuss Russian’s dominance of the efforts to reach a solution and the latest developments in Syria with the US administration.”
Hariri went on to say that they will convey a message to the American side regarding the Russian moves aimed at creating an alternative track to the Geneva process, the UN resolutions, and the political transition process.
"We will inform the US administration that there is real opposition capable of leading political transition in Syria," Hariri said.
Hariri stressed that the battle with the Assad regime is a purely political one, adding that taking up arms was necessary to protect civilians. “We hope a complete ceasefire is achieved to reach a political solution in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions, meet the aspirations of the Syrian people for freedom, bring about a political transition in which Bashar al-Assad does not have a role to play in the beginning, and bring Assad to trial.”
"The survival of Bashar al-Assad in power risks hampering the fight against terrorism and other major projects. It also risks undermining efforts to achieve political transition, restore peace and stability in the region and the return of Syrian state institutions to life," Hariri said. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department + The New Arab)
The Syrian Coalition said that the international community, especially the UN Security Council, is obliged to shoulder its responsibilities to put an end to the ongoing suffering of civilians in eastern Ghouta an to take action to ensure that the siege on the area and all other besieged areas across Syria is immediately lifted.
In a press release issued on Monday, the Coalition said that “for nearly four years, the people of eastern Ghouta in Rural Damascus have been enduring intense suffering as a result of the suffocating siege the Assad regime and Iranian terrorist militias laid on the area in a crime against humanity that continues right under the nose of the whole world. Their suffering is further increased by systematic, relentless artillery and aerial bombardment mainly by Russian air forces.”
Meanwhile, Syrian activists launched a media campaign on social media sites under the title "Assad is besieging eastern Ghouta" to draw the attention of the world to the suffering of about half a million people trapped inside, mostly women and children.
Activists and media workers in eastern Ghouta participated in the campaign along with many activists inside and outside Syria. The campaign seeks to draw the attention of the world to the tragedy unfolding in eastern Ghouta as a result of the siege Assad forces and their allies have imposed on the area since 2013.
In a statement released on Monday, organizers of the campaign said that "the de-escalation zones agreement” which went into effect about three months ago, included the opening of trade routes and allowing the delivery of aid to eastern Ghouta. However, none of these provisions has been implemented yet as the Assad regime has not opened any crossings nor does it allow patients and injured persons to leave for treatment.
Activists noted that the Assad regime is still besieging over 350,000 civilians, including thousands of children, in eastern Ghouta, denying then access to food and medical supplies and other basic necessities.
The statement called for the activation of all civil, media and diplomatic means to lift the siege of eastern Ghouta, which the Assad regime has isolated from the outside world for over 1,850 days.
Dr. Yahia Abu Yahya who works in the Hakeem medical center in the area said that “the center's 11 branches in eastern Ghouta had received 9,700 children in the last three months. He said that the children included 80 who were suffering from severe malnutrition and 200 other who were suffering from moderate acute malnutrition."
Hakeem went on to say that 4,000 more children are in urgent need for micronutrients, describing this “as a very dangerous indicator."
The local population in the eastern Ghouta suffer from extreme hunger and are going through the most terrible days since the beginning of the siege. The average income of a family in the area is around 50 dollars, while the unemployment rate is 70 percent and inflation rate reached 900 percent compared to last year.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the last humanitarian convoy containing food, medicine and other supplies entered only three towns in eastern Ghouta on September 23. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
A child was killed and others were wounded in rocket shelling by regime forces on rural Damascus despite the Assad regime’s signing off on a Russian-sponsored ceasefire agreement covering the area.
Activists said that regime forces carried out rocket and artillery shelling on the district of Jobar in eastern Damascus as well as the towns of Ayn Tarma, Kafarbatna, and the outskirts of the town of Hawsh al-Dawahra in eastern Ghouta.
Local residents said that the shelling caused dozens of injuries among civilians and widespread destruction of buildings and infrastructure. Local council leaders said that Russia bears full responsibility for the attacks, stressing that it is obliged to “rein in the Assad regime and force it to cease hostilities in the area.”
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) earlier said that it had documented the deaths of 912 civilians at the hands of the Assad regime and in airstrikes by the Russian forces during the month of September.
In a report released in early October, the Network said that 498 civilians were killed by the Assad regime, including 101 children and 83 women in September. It pointed out that 33 more civilians people were killed under torture.
At teleconferences between the Coalition’s political committee and leaders of local councils in Damascus and its suburbs, the leaders stressed that the Assad regime continues to put increasing pressure on the civilian population in order to starve them and force them into surrender.
The Coalition underscored the need for the United Nations to urgently work on holding perpetrators of war crimes in Syria to account; protecting civilians; and putting an end to the Assad regime’s atrocities against unarmed civilians. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)