Violence in Syria has continued to escalate as 250 people have died in the region of Ghouta due to airstrikes in the span of just 48 hours. Young children are among those who were killed, and reports have stated that hospitals seemed to be the target of the airstrikes.
UNICEF has condemned the actions and issued a “blank” statement.
Over the span of several centuries, Syria, which was at the forefront of the Islamic Caliphate witnessed multiple invasions and occupations. The Romans to the Crusaders and the Turks have tried to gain control of the region.
In 1946, the modern state of Syria was born when it got its independence from France. A country of fertile plains, high mountains and deserts, it is home to diverse ethnic and religious groups, including Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians, Christians, Druze, Alawite Shia and Arab Sunnis. The majority of Muslim population in Syria is made up of Arab Sunnis.
The Syrian Civil War has been going on since 2011. It began during the Arab Spring protests and due to resentment towards the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The war is being fought by several factions: the Syrian government and its allies, a loose alliance of Sunni Arab rebel groups (including the Free Syrian Army), the majority-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Salafi jihadist groups (including al-Nusra Front) and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), with a number of countries in the region and beyond being either directly involved, or rendering support to one or another faction.
The United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has been at the center of all efforts to bring the parties to the negotiating table and put an end to the war. Previous rounds were held between 23rd February to 3rd March 2017; 23rd March to 31 March 2017; 15th May to 19th May 2017 and 10th July to 14th July, 2017. The eighth round of negotiations concluded on December 14th, 2017 ended in a stalemate with lack of progress.
In 2018, the violence has escalated. In January, Turkish forces entered northwestern Syria to attack a Kurdish militia called the YPG. The Turkish government has repeatedly noted that this group is a "terror army" that presents a danger to Turkish security. The various factions fighting within the region have further complicated matters. Even though Turkish forces are fighting YPG, the group is considered a key ally by the US in the fight against ISIS.
Deadly air strikes have continued to take place in the embattled region. On February 20th 2018, airstrikes resulted in the deaths of 100 people in Ghouta enclave. In the span of 48 hours, the death toll has increased to 250 due to airstrikes. This included young children and the main target of the attacks seemed to the hospital in the region.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has addressed the attack in Ghouta by issuing a statement that was preceded by ten empty spaces. The last line of the page carried the message, “UNICEF is issuing this blank statement. We no longer have the words to describe children’s suffering and our outrage. Do those inflicting the suffering still have words to justify their barbaric acts?”
"I am appalled and distressed by reports of the horrifying attacks against six hospitals in East Ghouta over the past 48 hours," said Panos Moumtzis, the UN's regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis. A mother of two children was quoted by Al Jazeera as stating, “From yesterday until this very moment, we've witnessed all kinds of shelling in our neighbourhood. Warplanes have not stopped soaring over the city. When the shelling temporarily stops, they start firing missiles at us.”
Aid agencies have also repeatedly expressed concern that they have been unable to transport aid to those in need in the region. Early February 2018, the main hospital in the region of Afrin was hit. At the time, it was considered to be the most secure facility in the area.
Our assessment is that the international community has to come together to find a solution to put an end to the violence in Syria. The humanitarian crisis has resulted in the deaths of thousands including young children. The ongoing negotiations ended in a stalemate in 2017 but it has to be re-started once again with a clear goal of saving lives of the truly vulnerable.