(ANTIMEDIA Op-ed) — Syrian rebels are sniping down civilians attempting to flee the violence in Eastern Ghouta through a corridor opened up by the Syrian government, according to a U.N. official as reported by the New York Times.
Sajjad Malik, head of the United Nations refugee agency from Damascus, returned to Beirut late last week after entering Eastern Ghouta with a relief convoy earlier in the week. Malik noted the dire conditions facing the residents of Eastern Ghouta and highlighted how little choice the people have when it comes to escaping the violence.
According to Malik, the residents also would also have to fear for their safety if they were to flee to government-held territory. The government has been known to make deals to relocate residents to other rebel-held territories if need be, but no such deals have yet been made with the residents of Eastern Ghouta to safely relocate them elsewhere. The residents are therefore unsure of what to expect should they make it safely to areas controlled by the government.
“They want out – either the bombing to stop, or to get out. But reach safety where?” Malik said last Thursday. “We are getting to a point where there is literally no flight option. What worse situation could there be?”
According to the New York Times, Malik’s account “underscored that combatants on both sides are responsible for the horrific situation of civilians in eastern Ghouta.” This admission is noteworthy to say the least considering the mainstream media has painted the current humanitarian issue as one that belongs solely to the Syrian government while giving the Islamist rebels holding Eastern Ghouta a free pass.
Malik documented an incident in which two people had been killed by rebel snipers as a family tried to escape through a land corridor established by the Syrian government. The area is controlled by Jaish al-Islam, a radical Islamist group openly supported by American allies like Saudi Arabia.
The New York Times alleged that the Syrian government has behaved similarly in an area controlled by another rebel group by delivering an air strike on a family of five as they tried to reach the crossing. Interestingly, the New York Times did not reference Malik as the source of this claim but referred to a known “anti-government activist” in the area known as Ahmed Hamdan. The New York Times also mentioned that some residents said the family had died during “ordinary” airstrikes but not while trying to flee — another inconsistency.
The New York Times also documented protests that erupted on Friday in the town of Kafr Batna, with residents calling on the rebel groups to leave to put an end to the violence. Jaish al-Islam has refused to leave the areas it occupies, which does not bode well for the prospect of winding down the current situation.
“Miserable. Destruction. Disaster. Death. Hunger,” Malik reportedly said before noting that there was a prominent stench in the streets of bodies trapped under the rubble of destroyed houses.
Malik also noted that residents told him that rebels prevented them from leaving the area.
“They said, ‘These guys are preventing us’” while pointing at nearby rebel fighters, Malik stated.
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