Since the beginning of February, activists in Syria have been releasing videos that show civilians facing some of the worst violence of the country's long-running civil war. The footage indicates that the Syrian conflict is a long way from over — and that even though the fight against the Islamic State is winding down, the risk to civilians remains.
Video published by the White Helmets rescue groups shows its members in the eastern part of Ghouta, a rebel-held area east of Damascus that has been under intense attack since the end of December, rushing into places hit by airstrikes and artillery fire. Video compiled by the group shows children, dazed and covered in dust, being dragged out of buildings. In one video, a White Helmets volunteer is described as saving his own child.
In total, activists have recorded at least 169 deaths since Monday in the area. The White Helmets said that 35 people had been killed in attacks on Ghouta on Thursday alone.
In another area still under siege — Syria's northern Idlib province — activists released footage this week that showed children and infants being treated by rescuers after a hospital was apparently hit by an airstrike. At least one hospital closed after multiple strikes, the Syrian American Medical Society said this week.
Russia escalated attacks on rebel-held areas of Idlib last weekend in what appeared to be retaliation for the recent downing of a Russian fighter jet. There have also been reports of the use of chlorine gas in Idlib, prompting the global watchdog the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to announce that it is “investigating all credible allegations” and will be presenting its findings to member states.
Observers have warned for weeks that the fighting in Syria appears to be worsening, with a Russian-led effort for “de-escalation zones” collapsing amid new violence and with the United Nations calling for an immediate cease-fire to allow aid to reach 2.9 million people living near the current fighting.
“The war is far from over,” Panos Moumtzis, the U.N. regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis, told journalists in Beirut on Tuesday. “This is a really critical stage. The humanitarian situation has dramatically deteriorated, and that’s why we are ringing alarm bells.”
However, the conflict is continuing, and developments this month have further complicated the situation. On Saturday, Syrian rebels claimed that they had shot down the Russian fighter jet and killed its pilot. Then on Thursday, U.S. warplanes bombed pro-Syrian government forces — a rare expansion of U.S. involvement in the long-running civil war.
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