Largest wave of regime airstrikes hits East Ghouta since de-escalation

AMMAN: Rebels fighters and Syrian government forces fought for control of a military base east of Damascus on Wednesday as more than two dozen airstrikes hit the opposition-controlled suburbs east of the capital in the largest wave of bombings there since the summer, sources on the ground told Syria Direct.

Regime forces reportedly launched at least 30 airstrikes and 140 artillery shells into more than a half dozen towns and cities in the besieged, rebel-held East Ghouta pocket, leaving “widespread destruction” throughout both Tuesday and Wednesday, Siraj Mahmoud, a spokesman for the Outer Damascus Civil Defense told Syria Direct. Nearly a dozen civilians were killed and more than 100 injured, he added.

“We haven’t been able to get an accurate and final casualty number,” Mahmoud said.

The bombings pushed schools in East Ghouta to close their doors on Wednesday, with no set date to resume classes, said Adnan Selik, the head of the opposition-run Education Directorate in Outer Damascus.

Civil Defense rescuers in Douma on Wednesday. Syrian Civil Defense-Outer Damascus

The school closings are intended to “protect the lives of teachers and students,” Selik told Syria Direct.

In the past month, regime artillery shells have landed on at least two schools in the rebel-held enclave. In late October, five children were killed by government artillery fire in the town of Jisreen, Syria Direct reported at the time.

East Ghouta, a collection of rebel-held suburbs immediately northeast of regime-held Damascus, is part of a de-escalation deal brokered by Iran and Russia in May that establishes four ceasefire zones across the country.

The enclave has been encircled by government forces since 2013. In recent months, the regime has tightened the siege of East Ghouta by closing a key trade crossing into the enclave and capturing of a network of smuggling tunnels that once brought food and other supplies to Ghouta’s estimated 400,000 residents.

The latest wave of airstrikes began on Tuesday, three hours after rebels with the the Ahrar a-Sham faction attacked a Syrian army base containing armored vehicles just outside the opposition-controlled city of Harasta in East Ghouta, local media outlets reported.

Ahrar a-Sham has not released any official statements announcing their latest battle with the regime.

“It’s better to not release any details about our current battle,” Ahrar a-Sham spokesman Omar Khattab told Syria Direct on Wednesday.

“We’ll release the details to the media once the mission is complete—when we are in total control of the base,” he said.

With additional reporting by Bahira al-Zarier.

Alaa Nassar

Alaa was forced to flee Damascus with her family because of the pressure from the Syrian regime in 2013. She was a student of Arabic Language & Literature at the University of Damascus. She came to Syria Direct because she hopes to find a new direction in her life and to show the world what is happening in her country.

Justin Clark

Justin studied Arabic at Western Michigan University. He continued his studies at Bethlehem University in the West Bank and the Qasid Institute in Jordan. Justin's work and studies have taken him to Jordan, the West Bank, Egypt and Greece.