©Guillaume Pinon

South Syria Military Offensive: While the World Cup Show Goes on in Russia, Moscow Backs Its Syrian Ally at the Expense of the Civilian Population

The whole world is blissfully caught up in the World Cup hosted by Russia, and meanwhile, the Syrian regime has been leading ground offensives and aerial bombings on the south of Syria, with the help of their Russian ally. These strikes were met with the World’s most blatant indifference. Médecins du Monde (MdM) is raising deep concern about the escalation of hostilities, which are severely endangering the lives of civilians and causing massive displacements. MdM is blowing the whistle on the ongoing humanitarian crisis and the necessity to safeguard the means of protection of the population and of their access to healthcare facilities and treatments, as should be in compliance with the international law provisions.

The news from the ground are extremely alarming. The governorate of Dara’a, which is supposed to be a de-escalation zone, has been facing shelling and fighting for several days, in outright violation of the ceasefire arrangements that had brought a semblance of tranquillity in the south of Syria last year. One health facility in Bosra el Harir was damaged last night, and the city of Dara’a severely bombed. The escalation of hostilities resulted in the death of civilians, and many others were injured. The fighting also led to the displacement of at least 12,000 people from the northern governorate of Dara’a towards the rural governorate of Quneitra as well as towards the Jordanian border, where there is no form of sheltering available.
The population, an estimated total of 750,000 people, is trapped in Dara’a and has nowhere to go, as the three directions in which they could flee (East, West, and North) are the areas where the attacks come from. Moreover, the border with Jordan is shut. The Dara’a governorate declared the state of emergency in all of eastern Dara’a. MdM field staff reported witnessing the use of alleged non-conventional weapons in the attacks.

A field MdM medical staff says: “Medical workers are facing major difficulties in the midst of the current escalation of violence. Let’s take the example of a hospital in the north of eastern Dara’a, which is the only care centre providing secondary care, including dialysis. This health facility tried to address the needs of the numerous people injured in the entire area. But the increasingly violent context made our work very difficult in trying to care for the population, and secure the families at the same time. Some of us had no choice but to make the decision to leave the location, and thus the health facility, because of the lack of protection. Recently, a midwife and her infant daughter were killed during a shelling.”
In areas of displacement, medical staff are mobilised to provide consultations wherever people are hosted, in schools, for example. MdM is supporting five health facilities in the region, providing medication and technical support.

Dr. Philippe de Botton, President of Médecins du Monde France, stated: “While the world is watching the World Cup organised in Russia, the international community cannot turn a blind eye to the escalation of violence currently taking place in south Syria and its consequences on the thousands of civilians living in the area. We urge decision-makers to take all effective measures to uphold the ceasefire arrangements and safeguard civilian lives and the protection of health facilities and health workers, as required by international humanitarian and human rights law. The situation in Aleppo or Eastern Ghouta must never occur again, although we do fear it is most likely to.”

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