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East Ghouta residents brace for winter amidst ongoing blockade, airstrikes

AMMAN: Despite daily temperatures hovering around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, residents […]

3 September 2015

AMMAN: Despite daily temperatures hovering around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, residents of the blockaded city of Douma are already worried about a looming third winter without electricity, fuel and enough food to feed its 200,000 residents.

“With the approach of winter, food prices have already begun to rise,” Muhammad Khobbiah, a Douma resident told Syria Direct on Thursday.

Various types of sobbiat, the wood stoves currently used to cook food and heat homes in fuel-deprived East Ghouta, are on sale in the city in a picture given to Syria Direct by the Douma Coordination Council on Thursday as residents brace themselves for the coming winter.

With no end in sight to the regime blockade, East Ghouta residents fear a repeat of last years’ brutal winter in which residents were forced to burn “the doors of destroyed houses…wood from trees, furniture, plastic, trash and animal dung” for warmth, as one Douma resident told Syria Direct last December.

While during the summer residents may substitute missing commodities such as sugar with various fruits, Khobbiah said, “the summer agricultural season in Ghouta is on the verge of ending, and we will enter the winter agricultural season which does not meet people’s needs.”

Woodstoves on sale in Douma. Photo courtesy of Douma Coordination Council.

Regime forces have blockaded East Ghouta and neighboring Jobar for more than two years, restricting the entry of food, fuel and medicine into the east Damascus suburbs, both of which are controlled by the rebel Unified Military Leadership, headed by Jaish al-Islam.

To make matters worse, regime airstrikes in East Ghouta and Jobar have killed hundreds of civilians since mid-August. A single strike on a busy Douma vegetable market over two weeks ago killed more than 100 in what activists have termed the Great Douma Massacre. 

Members of relief, civil and medical agencies joined forces on Wednesday, meeting in Douma to announce the formation of a joint Disaster Management Organization, pro-opposition Shaam News Network reported Thursday.

The organization represents “a new step to organize [disaster management] work in all its forms and to combine efforts” across East Ghouta and Jobar neighborhood, Abu Anas, a member of the Douma Local Coordination Council who attended Wednesday’s meeting told Syria Direct on Thursday.

The newly formed Disaster Management Organization declared East Ghouta and Jobar a “disaster area” in an official announcement Thursday, calling on the international community to intervene and “stop the barbaric, systematic and intentional bombardment of civilians.”

The group also called for “the opening of humanitarian corridors” to international committees and aid agencies to “facilitate the entry of food and medicine to those encircled in East Ghouta and Jobar.”

Last month, Douma medical personnel demonstrated to appeal for a ceasefire and humanitarian truce, in the first such call since the beginning of rebel rule in the area.

“A humanitarian truce under UN supervision [would be] a good thing provided it does not harm the rebels,” East Ghouta media activist Abu al-Hassan al-Andalusi told Syria Direct on Thursday.

“East Ghouta and its residents are at a crossroads: The situation is very dangerous.”

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