The partial ceasefire in Syria partially holds, but most analysts suspect it will break down. If and when it does the resolve of the international community must be to stop President Assad’s campaign of bombing civilians from the air.
The bombing of towns such as Hama, Aleppo and Idlib is sophisticated, co-ordinated, and planned in the sort of detail you would expect from a highly trained military. More worryingly it is now producing the results that the regime is after – civilians surrendering and fleeing after 4 years of resistance. If the ceasefire is to have any chance of success it must stop this and the UN back it up with a massive humanitarian aid push.
The fall of Daraya 2 weeks ago was the result of 4 years of starvation and bombing, which included chemical weapons, incendiaries, and high explosive barrel bombs. These have indiscriminately killed vast numbers of civilians. Daraya eventually succumbed despite repeated calls to the West for help.
The town fell to Assad, the civilians are now refugees and some undoubtedly have turned to ISIS feeling completely abandoned by their own government and the International Community.
The regime will be greatly heartened by its success in Daraya and in the run up to the ceasefire it stepped up ‘carpet bombing’ of civilians in cities and towns held by the rebels.
On Tuesday last week there was the third chemical attack on Aleppo in as many weeks, allegedly killing 7 and injuring 40, mainly children this time. 600,000 people are trapped in Aleppo, 85,000 of which are children, they are starving, and face death or surrender. Similar bombing is reported in Hama, Ghouta and Idlib city. In Madaya, besieged for over a year, reportedly 65 people have died from malnutrition and many teenagers have attempted suicide, seemly caused by the relentless barrel bombing and starvation.
This genocide is shown to the world every day, in detail, and there can be no excuse by the International Community of not knowing what is happening. 5 years into this conflict – over 500,000 dead, the most abhorrent of weapons being used – how on earth is this allowed to continue?
As a former military officer I can’t explain it. I accept the fear of committing British and NATO troops to the ground battle, I understand the desire to not antagonist the Russians into a wider global conflict, but I don’t understand why we are collectively prevaricating and hoping for the best?
Hope has almost deserted Syria, but not entirely, and, with my 4 years’ experience in Syria and with my military hat on, I believe there are 3 tangible avenues the International Community could pursue along with the ceasefire.
Firstly, a Helicopter No Fly Zone over civilian areas would immediately stop the chlorine, napalm and high explosive barrels bombs. It has been proved time and again that it is only regime helicopters dropping these barrel bombs. The NFZ would be relatively easy for the coalition to put in place and police. Secondly, aircraft which bomb hospitals can be tracked and ‘named and shamed’ – possible to do, but, no doubt Putin who claims so aggressively that his jets don’t attack civilians could come unstuck. Thirdly, air drops to the starving in besieged areas.
The ceasefire must be backed up by a massive humanitarian, as part of a comprehensive plan if it has any chance of succeeding beyond a few weeks like previous attempts at peace. If it breaks down a NFZ will be imperative.
The alternative is millions more refugees and many more foot soldiers for ISIS. It is time for good men and women to act.