At least 15 people were killed and wounded in eastern Ghouta in escalating bombardment by the Assad regime and its allied foreign militias on the besieged Damascus suburb on Friday.
Local activists said that the victims included six civilians who were killed in heavy rocket shelling by the Assad forces and their allied-foreign militias on the town of Harasta.
Two civilians, one of them a child, were also killed in artillery shelling by the Assad regime forces on the town of Hammouriya in eastern Ghouta.
For over two months, most towns and villages in eastern Ghouta have been subjected to rocket and artillery shelling by the Assad forces and their allied foreign militias, media outlets in the rebel-held area reported. The bombardment has caused widespread destruction to civilian homes and left hundreds of civilian casualties.
Eastern Ghouta has been under suffocating siege by regime forces and their allied foreign militias for nearly five years. Civilians trapped inside, especially children, suffer severe shortages of food and medical supplies amid deteriorating health conditions in the rebel-held area.
Medical sources in the area warned that 195 children are threatened with imminent death from chronic diseases such as rickets, hepatitis, tuberculosis as well as from lack of necessary vaccines.
The United Nations’ requests for medical evacuations and humanitarian access were rejected by the Assad regime, which led to the death of at least 13 children due to lack of medical and food supplies.
In western Ghouta, meanwhile, the Assad regime forced the residents of the town of Beit Jinn to leave their homes and leave for Idlib and Dara’a provinces in the wake of a brutal bombing campaign on the area located southwest of Damascus. Activists reported that over 500 people were forced to leave, noting out that the town was reduced to rubble as a result of intensive bombardment with indiscriminate and internationally banned weapons. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
The Syrian Coalition accused the Assad regime and Russia of seeking to impose their own vision of a solution in Syria through their escalating attacks on Syrian civilians, particularly the recent bombing campaign on Idlib province.
“Despite the recent flurry of calls, debates and discussions about political solution here and there, the Assad regime, backed by its Russian ally, is seeking to impose a de facto situation on the ground through its criminal policy of barrel bombing, killing, displacement and siege,” said the Coalition in a press release issued on Thursday.
The Coalition underscored that “the escalating bombing campaign being carried out by the Russian occupation jets and the Assad regime helicopters for about a week on towns and villages of rural Idlib continues in parallel with attempts by regime forces and their allied-foreign militias to advance on the region from the south.”
“Initial counts indicated that the aerial attacks claimed the lives of at least 18 civilians on Thursday (December 28). The bombing campaign has killed dozens of civilians, including women and children, and wounded hundreds more since it began a week ago. Hundreds of airstrikes and barrel bomb attacks by the Russian and Assad regime warplanes have hit towns and villages of eastern and southern rural Idlib,” the Coalition added.
The Coalition went on: “The ongoing onslaught on Idlib has clearly shown that sabotaging the political process has been the Assad regime and its allies’ strategic choice since the very beginning. The international community cannot expect any change in this strategy unless it takes a wholly different position, exert real pressure on the regime and its allies, and begins to adopt a new strategy that corresponds with the size of its responsibilities and the recent developments on the ground.”
The Coalition concluded its press release by stressing that “the inability of the international community to protect Syrian civilians and its failure to maintain peace and security in Syria and its choosing to watch idly by the regime’s endless crimes make it equally responsible for these crimes. The international community’s continued silence also represents a nod of approval for the escalating campaign on Idlib, which will have dire consequences for political solution.” (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
Head of the Syrian opposition Negotiations Committee, Nasr Hariri, stressed that the Sochi conference which Moscow calls for "bypasses all international resolutions on Syria and ignores the right of the Syrian people to establish a free democratic state for all its citizens." He said the Assad regime continues to obstruct the political process in Geneva which makes it imperative that the United Nations assume its role in the enforcement of international resolutions.
At a videoconference with senior leaders in Dara’a province on Thursday, Hariri said that "the information being circulated about the Sochi conference is catastrophic." He added that Russia is seeking through the conference to “crown its military actions in Syria with a political achievement in its own way.”
Hariri underscored that the Syrian opposition will continue to press for the implementation of the Geneva Communiqué of 2012 and the relevant international resolutions, especially UN Security Council resolution 2254. He maintained that brining about a political transition in line with UN resolutions is the only solution to save Syria.
The participation of the Negotiations Committee in the Geneva process serves the Syrian revolution and the interests of the Syrian people, Hariri added. "Despite the lack of tangible outcome from these negotiations, our participation was necessary to expose the regime and its crimes in front of the international community.”
Hariri also stressed that the Negotiations Committee’s delegation to Geneva is facing the regime and its allies as well as the international community “which remains silent about the heinous crimes being committed against the Syrian people." He stressed the need for forces of the revolution and the opposition to remain "one hand in the face of the dictatorial Assad regime." (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
The Syrian Supreme Hajj Committee praised the efforts made by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to look after and serve the Syrian pilgrims every year at a meeting with Saudi officials on Wednesday.
The Syrian Supreme Hajj Committee arrived in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on an official visit on Wednesday. Dr. Nazir al-Hakim, Head of the Supreme Hajj Committee and Secretary-General of the Syrian Coalition, stressed the importance of efforts made by Saudi Arabia to serve pilgrims of the Islamic world.
For his part, HE Dr. Abdul Fattah bin Sulaiman Mishat, Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah praised the institutional efforts being made by the Syrian Supreme Hajj Committee in serving the Syrian pilgrims since 2013.
Mishat added that the Kingdom considers serving pilgrims to be a holy national duty. He pointed out that "the Saudi government provides assistance to all peoples, including the Syrian brothers who will continue to receive appropriate support."
The meeting, which was held in Jeddah today, brought together members of the Syrian Supreme Hajj Committee headed by Dr. Nazir al-Hakim, Deputy Head Dr. Hisham Marwa, Director the Syrian Hajj Samer Birqdar, members of the Committee, HE Dr. Abdul Fattah bin Sulaiman Mishat, Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah, Dr. Hussein bin Nasser Al-Sharif, Deputy Minister for Hajj Affairs, Undersecretary of the Ministry for Public Administration Affairs and Visit in Medina, and representatives of the Ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
The delegations exchanged badges of honor at the end of the meeting. The delegation's visit will last for a week during which it will meet institutions of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah and sign the necessary contracts for the upcoming Hajj season. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
A broad array of Syrian dissidents and opposition figures have called for boycotting the so-called "national dialogue conference" which Russia is preparing to hold in the Black Sea resort of Sochi at the end of January.
A statement signed by more than 3,500 opposition figures, including independents, members of the Syrian Coalition, the Syrian Interim Government, Free Syrian Army commanders, journalists and activists stressed that Russia is trying by calling the Sochi conference to impose a solution to its own advantage and sow discord and divisions among the Syrian opposition.
The statement added: Russia is seeking to impose a phony constitution that would ensure the survival of the head of the regime, Bashar al-Assad, and allow foreign occupation forces fighting alongside his regime to remain in Syria with the help of elections under the supervision and control of Assad’s security services who will not allow any international supervision of elections in Syria.
"The Sochi conference contravenes the six-year negotiations in Geneva and is aimed at ending them by the use of force and deception in favor of the Assad regime and its allies while denying the Syrian people their sacred right to freedom, dignity and sovereignty for which one million Syrians sacrificed their lives,” the statement said.
“The Sochi conference is also seeking to undermine the Geneva negotiations and empty them of any substance by flooding the opposition with a sea of invitees who already support Assad's survival in power. It is also aimed at sidelining all fundamental issue set forth in UN resolutions, most notably the issue of political transition."
The statement went on to say that the "Russians cannot conceal their intention to consolidate the rule of Assad and his regime and undermine the Geneva process which is based on UN Security Council resolutions and international understandings and replace it with negotiations that lack any legal basis save Moscow's political and strategic dictates."
The signatories underscored that the Sochi conference "aims to consolidate and bestow legitimacy on the Russian-Iranian occupation by using the Russian and Iranian military presence in Syria to enforce the decisions that would come out of the Sochi Conference."
The statement called on all bodies and organizations that can influence the Syrian public opinion, most importantly political and union organizations, the FSA groups, national figures, and intellectuals to boycott the conference and to work by all means to foil it. It also called for thwarting Moscow's attempts to “hijack the will of the Syrian people and confiscate their right to organize a Syrian-led, Syrian-owned national dialogue as well as its attempts to undermine their sovereignty; ignore their enormous sacrifices; and ruin their future and the future of their children."
The signatories called upon the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the UN Security Council member states, friendly countries, and international legal and human rights organizations to intervene "to force Russia and all active players to commit to international charters and resolutions. They reiterated that the Geneva process and the UN Security Council resolutions remain the only legitimate framework for the completion of negotiations aimed at bringing about a political solution in Syria. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
Members of the Syrian Coalition questioned Russia's ability to leverage the outcome of the Sochi Conference in a way that would push the political process forward and implement the substance of international resolutions on Syria.
Secretary of the Coalition’s political committee Yahya Maktabi said that Moscow is not eligible to sponsor a conference on the restoration of peace in Syria as Russian jets continue to target civilians and residential neighborhoods.
Maktabi pointed out that Russia's seriousness in finding a political solution in Syria should have been manifested in the latest round of negotiations in Geneva through pressuring the regime which obstructed the talks and refused to engage in direct negotiations.
Member of the political committee Okab Yahya said that the Russian officials laid down preconditions on the Syrian opposition before announcing the agenda of the upcoming Sochi conference. He noted that these preconditions put many question marks on that conference, let alone Moscow’s negative role in pushing the political process forward.
Yahya reiterated that the Syrian opposition is committed to a political solution through the UN-led Geneva negotiations and in accordance with international resolutions on Syria, most importantly the Geneva Communiqué of 2012 and UN Security Council resolutions 2118 and 2254. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
A delegation from the Syrian opposition’s Negotiations Committee headed by Nasr Al-Hariri met with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir on Sunday and discussed with him the outcome of the latest round of talks in Geneva and the negotiations process.
Hariri reiterated the Committee’s commitment to political solution in accordance with the international resolutions on Syria, most importantly the Geneva Communiqué of 2012 and UN Security Council resolutions 2118 and 2254. He stressed that the intransigence of the Assad regime had undermined efforts of the UN Special Envoy to Syrian Staffan de Mistura to achieve progress and push the political process forward.
Hariri pointed out that the Syrian opposition had fulfilled its duties and was still awaiting for the United Nations to fulfill its role and deliver the other side, namely the Assad regime, to the negotiating table. He said that the UN failed to bring the Assad regime to the negotiating table while the Assad regime persisted in its attempts to obstruct the implementation of international resolutions.
For his part, Foreign Minister Al-Jubeir reiterated the Kingdom's support for the Syrian opposition’s Negotiations Committee as he renewed calls for the implementation of international resolutions and reaching a sustainable political solution that is needed to put an end to the suffering of the Syrian people, bring about political transition, and ensure the return of refugees to their homes.
Al-Jubair expressed his support for the plans by the Committee to visit member states of the UN Security Council to urge them to press for the implementation of international resolutions on Syria. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
The delegation of the armed opposition groups on Friday held a number of meetings with delegations of active parties in the Kazakh capital Astana and stressed the need to achieve real progress on the issue of detainees in the prisons of the Assad regime.
The armed opposition’s delegation met with Turkish, Russian and US delegations and discussed with them the release of detainees, the consolidation of the ‘de-escalation zones’ agreement, and the need to exercise pressure on the Assad regime to stop violations of the agreement.
Head of the armed opposition’s delegation, Ahmed Tomah, said that their primary focus was on making real progress on the issue of detainees. “Our number one priority is the issue of detainees. The agreement that was reached on this issue needs to be activated and must remain the focus of the current round of talks.”
Tomah called for exerting pressure on the Assad regime and its guarantors to force it to "fully abide by the de-escalation zones agreement, especially in Idlib province and eastern Ghouta near Damascus." He noted that the agreement is mainly related to the safety and security of millions of Syrians.
The delegation presented the Russian delegation with a memorandum detailing the regime’s violations of the ‘de-escalation zones agreement’ since it went into force. The delegation called on Moscow to exert the necessary pressure to force the Assad regime to fully abide with the agreement.
The delegation also pointed out that the Assad regime had facilitated the withdrawal of ISIS militants from Aqiribat area in eastern rural Hama towards Idlib province. They demanded the launch of a serious investigation into this move which has exposed the Assad regime’s direct complicity and collusion with ISIS.
Head of the Turkish delegation to the Astana talks Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal expressed his displeasure at the Assad regime’s ongoing violations of the ‘de-escalation zones’ agreement. He stressed that that he conveyed these violations to guarantors of the Assad regime and said he wound press towards ending this tragedy. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
The delegation of the Syrian armed opposition on Thursday held a meeting with a UN technical team at the opening of the eighth round of talks in the Kazakh capital Astana. The delegation discussed the issue of detainees in the prisons of the Assad regime with the UN team.
In a statement, the delegation said that the aim of their participation in the current round of talks in Astana is to ensure the release of detainees, the consolidation of ceasefire, especially in the ‘de-escalation zones,’ the lifting of all sieges imposed on the liberated areas, and the delivery of humanitarian aid to those in need.
The delegation emphasized that it gave priority to the issue of detainees, noting that discussion with the Russian side will focus primarily on this issue.
The Assad regime’s refusal of to release detainees violates UN Security Council resolutions, most notably the humanitarian provisions contained in resolution 2254, the delegation said. It called on Russia to assume its role as a responsible guarantor of the Assad regime.
The statement stressed that regime forces and the Iranian-backed foreign militias did not abide by the ‘de-escalation zones’ agreement, adding that crimes continue to be committed against civilians in besieged eastern Gouta and in Idlib province.
The behavior of the Assad regime’s delegation during the latest round of talks in Geneva clearly showed that it did not have the slightest intention to abide by international resolutions, the statement went on. It stressed that the Russian side is required more than ever to exert pressure the Assad regime to force it to agree to a political solution. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
The Syrian Coalition condemned the massacre that was committed by the Russian occupiers in the town of Maar Shoureen in rural Idlib claiming the lives of dozens of civilians including women and children.
In a press release issued on Thursday, the Coalition called for international action to stop the crimes being committed by Russia and the Assad regime. It stressed that statements made by the representatives of the active players have so far failed to put pressure on the Assad regime and Russian occupiers. These statements cannot absolve the international community of its legal and humanitarian responsibilities to protect civilians and maintain peace and security in Syria.
Local activists said that four Russian jets raided residential areas and civilian homes in the center of the town on Tuesday night, killing 17 people and injuring 35 others. They pointed out that high-explosive missiles were used in the airstrikes which caused widespread destruction to residential buildings and surrounding facilities.
According to the civil defense center in rural Idlib, the victims included 13 people from one family, including four children and two women. It added that rescue workers rushed to the site of the attack and rescued around 30 civilians from under the rubble.
The Coalition warned that negotiations and political solution are in great danger. “It is urgent that the international community and UN Security Council provide sufficient support to salvage the negotiating process and reactivate it in a serious, effective way. There is also an urgent need to enforce international resolutions on the ongoing violations of UN resolutions, especially UN Security Council 2268 and 2254 to ensure that perpetrators are held to account.” (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)