Syria Direct: News Update 9-8-15

Hospitals struggle as sandstorm leaves hundreds injured across Syria

Hospitals across Syria are struggling to treat hundreds of adults and children, left choking and struggling to breathe, in the wake of a massive sandstorm stretching from Damascus to Deir e-Zor, Mousa Diyab, a nurse at Talbisah Civilian Hospital in the northern Homs countryside, told Syria Direct on Tuesday.

“Our hospital just couldn’t take in all the cases of choking and suffocation,” said Diyab.

“We’re out of bottled oxygen, so we ended up moving a number of patients to a hospital in a-Rastan, 9km to the north,” he added.

Hospitals in the opposition-held northern Homs countryside received more than a 1,000 cases of suffocation, choking and difficulty breathing, Yarab al-Dali, an a-Rastan based journalist, told Syria Direct on Tuesday.

“The hospital received at least 70 injured, but we’ve got so few supplies–on top of regime bombardment–that we’ve shut down a part of our hospital,” the head of the Civil Defense Forces in Saraqib, 17km southeast of Idlib, told pro-opposition Smart News on Monday.

The sandstorm has engulfed not only Syria, but also neighboring Lebanon, Israel and Jordan. The meteorological department at the Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut described the storm on Tuesday to Al-Jazeera as "unprecedented in Lebanon's modern history,” while the dust covered Israel “in a heavy haze,” reported Haaretz on Tuesday.

Satellite image of sandstorm from Monday. Photo courtesy of NASA

Civilians pay for south Damascus battles

Rebels in south Damascus closed the Yalda checkpoint leading into the Yarmouk and Palestine camps on Monday, both of which are under Islamic State control, in an effort to pressure IS fighters to lift their own blockade on the nearby al-Qadam district, Yarmouk Camp News reported.
 
“Those most harmed by the closure are civilians,” a Yarmouk camp resident told Syria Direct on Tuesday, requesting anonymity. “IS has food reserves and buying power, and it won’t affect them negatively,” the resident said, although “a real military front could.”
 
The Islamic State launched an offensive to take control of al-Qadam more than a week ago in its second major incursion in south Damascus since taking control of Yarmouk camp earlier this year. IS subsequently has been “prohibiting the entry of food and fuel into al-Qadam since August 28,” Matar Ismail, a citizen journalist in Yalda told Syria Direct on Tuesday.
 
While local rebel factions have reversed most early gains made by IS in al-Qadam, sporadic fighting and the pressure of an ongoing blockade drove the newly formed anti-Islamic State operations room to close the Yalda-Palestine camp checkpoint as a way to force IS’s hand.
 
“The Yalda checkpoint was only closed for one day to put pressure on IS,” Ismail says.
 
Activists in Yarmouk called for protests on Tuesday against “repeated closures” of the checkpoint and alleged abuses by rebel factions, Yarmouk Camp News reported