After Syrian army captures rebel base, East Ghouta bombings 'now continue for an entire day’

Regime warplanes pounded the encircled East Ghouta rebel-held suburbs of Damascus on Wednesday with dozens of airstrikes and ground fire, injuring 76 people and killing at least seven, in the Syrian Arab Army’s latest campaign to seize strategic ground in the area.

At 1:30am on Wednesday, October 12, warplanes began bombing several towns in East Ghouta, focusing on its de facto capital of Douma, the epicenter of opposition military resistance in Outer Damascus.

“Douma witnessed the most airstrikes—more than 17, including five cluster bombs,” Mahmood Adam, East Ghouta’s Civil Defense spokesman, tells Syria Direct’s Waleed a-Noufal and Hasaan Idrees.

The strikes, which continued until 8pm Wednesday, follow the Syrian army’s capture of a nearby rebel military base two weeks ago.

“Before the regime seized the military base, strikes only lasted for a few hours. But now, bombings continue for an entire day,” said Adam.

Control of the Katibat al-Ishara base, three kilometers east of Douma, now allows the Syrian army to shell the encircled city from two fronts—the north and east.

“Douma is now at the mercy of the regime’s artillery…from another front,” Mohammed, a Douma resident, told Syria Direct on September 28, the week the base was seized. “There’s no denying that we’re afraid that that the city is going to experience an increase in the pace of the bombings.”

Civil Defense members rescuing East Ghouta residents following Wednesday’s airstrikes. Photo courtesy of the Civil Defense. 

On October 11, the Syrian Arab Army “renewed their large-scale offensive in the East Ghouta region…targeting the strategic town of a-Rehan,” pro-regime news website Al Masdar reported the next day. A-Rehan neighbors two hilltop villages—capturing them would give the Syrian army a vantage point overlooking Douma, which has been encircled since June 2012.

Interview with Mahmood Adam, Civil Defense spokesman in Outer Damascus

Q: When did the bombing start? Which cities were hit?

At 1:30 am Wednesday morning, the regime began bombing East Ghouta with a variety of weapons, hitting the towns of al-Shefonia, Zamlaka, Ein Tarma, Hamoria, Arbeen, a-Rehan, Masraba, Kafr Batna and Douma in a series of intense and systematic attacks.

The bombing didn’t stop until 8:00 Wednesday evening.

The airstrikes were concentrated on residential neighborhoods in Kafr Batna, Hamoriya, Saqba and Douma. An airstrike hit a market in Saqba, killing at least one resident and injuring others.

Douma witnessed the most airstrikes—more than 17, including five cluster bombs. Dozens of missiles and mortars were launched on the city, which also fell under heavy artillery fire.

Q: Which weapons did regime forces use?

Until now, we don’t have exact statistics on the number of residents who were injured or killed. We don’t even have the number of airstrikes and missiles because of the intensity of the strikes. Civil Defense members are busy helping thousands of residents in encircled East Ghouta.

 A Civil Defense member removing a gas canister from the rubble on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of the Civil Defense

Q: How is the Civil Defense rescuing residents, given the intense bombing?

The Civil Defense is working within its abilities, which are weak since East Ghouta is under siege.

These past few days the Civil Defense hasn’t stopped working to rescue civilians from roads and markets and under the rubble. We warn residents by driving around neighborhoods and announcing on loudspeakers that they should stay home and inside their basements.

We also warn people to avoid gathering in residential areas, doorways or near roads since warplanes target anything that moves.

Q: Has the pace of bombing increased since the regime took control of the Katibat al-Ishara military base 3km east of Douma?

The pace of bombing has increased these past few weeks. Before the regime seized the military base, strikes only lasted for a few hours. But now, bombings continue for an entire day. This is requiring more effort from the Civil Defense to rescue and aid thousands of civilians in East Ghouta in the midst of the intense bombings.

Waleed Khaled a-Noufal

Waleed a-Noufal was born in Ankhel in northern Daraa province. He attended high school in Ankhel but could not continue his study because of security reasons. Waleed worked as an activist in his local city council and the Umayya Media Center. In 2013, he moved to Jordan and finished his high school degree. Waleed wants to bring about a solution to the current crisis through his reporting.

Jessica Page, Reporter/Translator

Jessica was a 2013-2014 Georgetown University Qatar Scholarship Program fellow in Doha, Qatar. She received her BA in both Arabic and International & Area Studies from Washington University in St. Louis. She has worked and studied in Jordan, Oman, and Qatar.

Hasaan Idrees

Hassan was studying agricultural engineering in his home city of al-Qusayr when the war began. He has worked with Syrian NGOs in Amman, Jordan.