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First responders spread thin as regime renews Douma strikes

AMMAN: Local Civil Defense personnel in the opposition-held Damascus suburb […]

23 August 2015

AMMAN: Local Civil Defense personnel in the opposition-held Damascus suburb of Douma struggled to cope in the aftermath of six regime airstrikes that killed dozens of civilians in the city on Saturday, one week after regime airstrikes killed more than 100 people in a public market, in what activists are calling the “Great Douma Massacre.”

Four regime airstrikes hit the city on Saturday morning, flattening buildings on top of residents, the spokesman of the Douma City Coordination Council told Syria Direct on Sunday, requesting anonymity. Several hours later, the planes returned and struck the city with two surface-to-surface missiles.

“Douma has seen continuous bombardment” over the past two weeks, including three major massacres, Ayman Abu Anas, an activist with the Coordination Council told Syria Direct on Sunday, adding that the number of those killed in Saturday’s attack had reached 40 so far.

First responders scour the rubble in Douma following regime air raids on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Douma LCC.

Amidst ongoing regime airstrikes on Ghouta towns, local first responders are struggling with a severe shortage of personnel, heavy equipment and medical supplies.

“The Civil Defense does not have the supplies necessary to do its work,” Muhammad Khobbiah, a Douma resident who helped extract bodies from under the rubble alongside the Civil Defense told Syria Direct on Sunday.

Without the necessary supplies, avoidable tragedies are one inescapable part of the carnage inflicted by regime bombings. One such incident involved twenty-three members of the Issa family who were trapped in their four-story home after the airstrikes.

While members of the Civil Defense were able to dig an opening and extract three people who had sheltered in the building’s basement, twenty others remained pinned under the rubble, Khobbiah told Syria Direct, speaking of the rescue efforts.

“We heard the screams of the people in the upper levels for three hours straight, unable to do anything,” he says. “As the Civil Defense tried to use a winch to lift the rubble, the roof collapsed, killing all those who were in the upper floors.”

Activists on the ground in Douma are quick to point out that Saturday’s bombings were only the latest in a series of attacks on the city that the Outer Damascus Civil Defense said in an announcement have killed more than 200 and injured more than 400 in recent days.

In the same announcement, the group declared a disaster in Douma and called for immediate intervention by international governing bodies and human rights organizations to stop the attacks.

Syrian state media did not comment on the latest attacks, which came a day after the second anniversary of twin Sarin gas attacks in East and West Ghouta that killed hundreds of civilians in the opposition-held suburbs in 2013.

With no end in sight to regime attacks and ongoing blockades, some of those in the city stress the enormity of Douma’s ongoing human tragedy.

“With my thanks to those who convey our suffering [to the world], you cannot imagine its magnitude because you have not lived it,” Khobbiah said on Sunday.

“Hearing is not the same as seeing.”

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