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World In Ghouta's shelters, terrified Syrians await the next bomb

14:06  12 march  2018
14:06  12 march  2018 Source:   reuters.com

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Overhead, steel rebars were visible in the large cracks and depressions of a concrete ceiling that seemed poised to collapse over the shelter ' s terrified inhabitants at any new blast nearby. "If anyone is listening, (think of) the Syrian children in Ghouta .

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a group of people walking down a street: A herd of sheep are seen in the besieged town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, in Damascus© REUTERS/ Bassam Khabieh A herd of sheep are seen in the besieged town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, in Damascus As the Syrian army pushes deeper into eastern Ghouta under cover of a hammering bombardment, the 400,000 civilians the United Nations says live in the enclave have crowded into dark basements to cower from the ceaseless bombs.

Under cracked ceilings that bulge downwards from the force of previous strikes, they string sheets across the basement to partition off rooms for entire families.

"Look at it. It is completely uninhabitable. It is not even safe to put chickens in. There is no bathroom, just one toilet, and there are 300 people," said a man in a shelter in the region's biggest urban centre, Douma.

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Overhead, steel rebars were visible in the large cracks and depressions of a concrete ceiling that seemed poised to collapse over the shelter ' s terrified inhabitants at any new blast nearby. "If anyone is listening, (think of) the Syrian children in Ghouta .

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Like the other people in the shelter he did not want to give his name for fear of reprisals as the army attempts to retake the rebel enclave.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his strongest ally Russia have said the onslaught on eastern Ghouta is needed to end the rule of Islamist insurgents over civilians there and to stop mortar fire on nearby Damascus.

But the intensity of the offensive, which the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says has killed 1,160 people in three weeks, has provoked condemnation from Western countries and pleas from U.N. agencies for a humanitarian halt.

The assault began with one of the fiercest bombardments of the war, as war planes, helicopters and artillery rained down a near-constant stream of missiles, bombs, rockets and shells.

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Overhead, steel rebars were visible in the large cracks and depressions of a concrete ceiling that seemed poised to collapse over the shelter ’ s terrified inhabitants at any new blast nearby. “If anyone is listening, (think of) the Syrian children in Ghouta .

Overhead, steel rebars were visible in the large cracks and depressions of a concrete ceiling that seemed poised to collapse over the shelter ' s terrified inhabitants at any new blast nearby. “If anyone is listening, (think of) the Syrian children in Ghouta .

It targeted an area that has been besieged since 2013, and where dire shortages of food and medicine have caused severe malnutrition and ravaging illness.

After the bombs began to fall three weeks ago, people feared to leave the shelters even to seek the meagre remaining supplies of food.

CHILDREN

The shelter was in two storeys of a basement and very crowded. Small children were everywhere, chatting and playing in the maze-like corridors between the hanging sheets.

Inside the makeshift rooms, thin mattresses and blankets lay on the floor. Some people tried to sleep. In one corner, a man sat up for the arrival of a medic, there to treat his injuries from a previous bomb attack.

a person sitting in front of a building: Children gather water in the besieged town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, in Damascus© REUTERS/ Bassam Khabieh Children gather water in the besieged town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, in Damascus Long cuts were visible on his shoulder and the crown of his head, which the medic cleaned.

Small children helped with washing up - rinsing foamy detergent off stainless steel dishes with dirty water from a small jug.

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BEIRUT (Reuters) – As the Syrian army pushes deeper into eastern Ghouta under cover of a hammering bombardment, the 400,000 civilians the United Nations says live in the enclave have crowded into dark basements to cower from the ceaseless bombs .

Overhead, steel rebars were visible in the large cracks and depressions of a concrete ceiling that seemed poised to collapse over the shelter ’ s terrified inhabitants at any new blast nearby. “If anyone is listening, (think of) the Syrian children in Ghouta .

In such conditions, hygiene becomes increasingly hard to maintain.

"Three hundred people living in danger and we are forced to live like this... old and young and sick," said the man.

From another part of the shelter, a man could be heard calling for the mother of a boy who had soiled himself, something people there said had grown more common as fear set in.

Many of the people huddled in Douma's shelters had already fled from other parts of the enclave, some of them many times over to escape the ever-shifting front lines.

a person standing in front of a building: FILE PHOTO: A boy is seen in the besieged town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, in Damascus© REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh/File Photo FILE PHOTO: A boy is seen in the besieged town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, in Damascus In recent days tens of thousands more people have arrived in the town after rushing from the latest rapid advances by the Syrian army.

"My son was martyred and my husband is wounded... We have spat blood, as they say," said a woman in the shelter.

Overhead, steel rebars were visible in the large cracks and depressions of a concrete ceiling that seemed poised to collapse over the shelter's terrified inhabitants at any new blast nearby.

"If anyone is listening, (think of) the Syrian children in Ghouta. The whole world, even the Arab countries, have abandoned them. We want God to help us. We are so tired. Pray for us, pray for us," she said.

(Reporting by a reporter in eastern Ghouta, writing by Ayat Basma and Angus McDowall, editing by Gareth Jones)

Rocket attack on Syrian capital kills 35 people .
Rockets fired on a market in a government-controlled neighborhood of Damascus on Tuesday killed 35 people and wounded more than 20 others, Syrian state-run media said, marking one of the highest death tolls in a single attack targeting the capital. The government blamed rebels in the eastern suburbs of Damascus for the attack on the Kashkol neighborhood. The capital, seat of President Bashar Assad's power, has come under increasing attack as government forces continue to pound rebel-held eastern Ghouta, with military backing from Russia.

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