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‘Too Little, Too Late’: Douma’s Displaced on Possible U.S. Action

Eastern Ghouta residents welcome possible western action against the Assad government but are unsure if it will bring about long-term benefits.

Written by Zouhir Al-Shimale, Areeb Ullah Published on Read time Approx. 3 minutes
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Buses carrying Jaish al-Islam fighters and their families from the former rebel bastion of Douma arrive at the Abu al-Zindeen checkpoint controlled by Turkish-backed rebel fighters near the northern Syrian town of al-Bab, on April 12, 2018.NAZEER AL-KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images

GAZIANTEP, Turkey – As the drums of war beat louder in Western capitals, Syrians inside Douma anxiously wait for the last remaining coaches that will take them from their homes.

Like the thousands of other Syrians who have been forced to leave Eastern Ghouta, Adnan Dahhan holds his family close as they wait to hear whether the United States and its allies will start bombing Syrian government targets in the coming days, if not hours.

“If you can see me right now, you’ll see me carrying only the clothes on my back,” Dahhan, 39, tells Middle East Eye via Whatsapp. “We have lost everything. It is too little, too late.”

Syrian government fighter jets have stopped their aerial bombardment across the country since U.S.-led airstrikes became a distinct possibility.

But Dahhan, whose neighbourhood had been besieged and bombed for years, questions whether bombing Bashar al-Assad’s forces will change anything on the ground.

“They should have bombed the regime before they took over Eastern Ghouta and forcibly displaced us,” he says. “We have already been hit dozens of times with chemical weapons, and now they have agreed to evacuate us.”

But despite his frustration, the former teacher and father-of-three welcomed any action that might dent the Syrian army, which has killed thousands of Syrians and made millions more homeless in the seven-year war.

“If the attack can prevent further attacks against civilians in Idlib and stop us from being displaced again, and bring us back to our homes, then I am for it.”

But Ammar, who also lives in Douma, is less optimistic. He lost two of his sons, aged 11 and 12, in a government barrel-bomb attack three weeks ago. He questions the strategy behind any potential airstrikes.

“I don’t agree or disagree,” he says. “I want someone to tell me what will be the results of these attacks. Are we going to see Assad removed from the presidency, or will the war criminals be judged and taken to justice?

“If this happens then I support any Western strikes. But if they disable Assad’s air force, then it will mean nothing. The Russian jets continue to bomb us wherever we go.”

Stopping Assad’s Bombs in Idlib

World attention has focused on Douma after the suspected chemical attack of April 7, which the United Kingdom-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says killed more than 40 people and injured dozens of others.

Many of those leaving Eastern Ghouta have joined the thousands of Syrians who continue to make their way to Idlib in northern Syria, where refugees from eastern Aleppo and other former rebel-held areas now live.

But activists and analysts fear that pro-Assad forces may now turn their attention to dealing with the last sizeable rebel-held territory inside Syria.

In March, senior Arab officials in Amman, Jordan and Beirut described conditions in Idlib as a “well-constructed killbox,” as refugees continue to pour into the last remaining rebel-held areas of Idlib and Hama.

Until three weeks ago, Salman Albani, 29, his wife and newborn baby lived in Saqba city in Eastern Ghouta. Like his neighbours, they were forcibly sent to Idlib three weeks ago after local rebels agreed to leave the area.

“When we were in our homes being attacked, we wished the international community could have done something to stop Assad massacring us,” he said via Whatsapp from a refugee camp in Idlib.

“Now we have to live in a refugee camp with thousands of others. I miss my home. But the hope that Assad’s jets will be destroyed makes me and many think that he will not butcher us in Idlib.

“Maybe there is hope that we can rebuild our homes, without having to worry about Assad’s bombs.”

The views expressed in this article belong to the authors and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Syria Deeply.

This article was originally published by Middle East Eye and is reprinted here with permission.

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