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In Syria, the helplessness of rescuers and doctors under the raids in Ghouta

Ⓒ AFP – Hamza Al-Ajweh – | Child injured in a makeshift hospital after regime strikes on the rebel city of Douma, near Damascus, February 7, 2018

“We can not do it,” said Abu Mohamed Omar. After each bombardment, time is running out for the Eastern Ghouta rescuers who are trying to find survivors under the rubble, before the return of the Syrian air force planes.

More than 145 civilians, including women and children, have been killed in the regime’s bombardments since the beginning of the week on this besieged rebel enclave at the gates of Damascus.

Every day, the same scenes of desolation are repeated.

In hospitals, bodies shrouded in shrouds are lined up on blood-stained ground, while children wait for treatment.

Along the streets strewn with rubble, five-story, six-story residential buildings, disemboweled, have collapsed on their inhabitants.

Rescuers and locals climb the rubble and evacuate bloody bodies in the middle of a thick cloud of gray dust.

In front of a building in ruins of Duma, the big city of Ghouta, Abu Raad is in tears: he lost a girl in a raid, the second is missing.

“I can not find my daughter, what am I doing?”, Says the father. Rescuers search the rubble.

– “Under the rubble” –

“The scale of the damage is enormous, every minute counts”, summarizes Abu Mohamed Omar, a member of the White Helmets, civil defense in rebel territory.

In Ghouta, subjected to a suffocating siege of the regime since 2013, the rescue teams lack bulldozers and fuel to carry out their operations, explains the young man of 23 years.

Ⓒ AFP – Hamza Al-Ajweh – | Rescuers looking for victims after regime strikes on the rebel city of Douma, near Damascus, February 7, 2018

“If we had more machines and equipment, we could save more lives,” he says.

The voice tied by emotion, he recounts a particularly painful intervention in the night from Tuesday to Wednesday: “A building of five floors fell on its inhabitants.There was someone under the rubble (…) we have tried, but we did not manage to get him out. ”

His team had to stop because of the shooting, but “this person, we will not leave it under the rubble.Although she is dead, we will return it to her family,” he promises.

Eastern Ghouta is already living an infernal daily life: the population suffers from shortages of food and medicine, and is experiencing cases of malnutrition that particularly threaten children.

And since Monday, the planes of the Syrian army continuously bomb this beleaguered perimeter of a hundred km².

When the planes arrive, the streets are empty, says Abu Samer, an ambulance driver in the locality of Hammouriyé, who also deplores gasoline shortages that prevent him from doing his job.

“The difficulty is the lack of fuel, otherwise I could go to any site hit by a strike,” said the forty-year-old.

– “This is not credible” –

For doctors, the task is titanic. The influx of wounded continues unabated in hospitals.

Ⓒ AFP – Hamza Al-Ajweh – | Man drowned in a cloud of dust after regime strikes on the rebel city of Douma, near Damascus, February 7, 2018

“The situation is catastrophic,” said coworker Oussama, an emergency doctor who had to treat more than a hundred wounded with his colleagues in an hour on Tuesday. “Until we can bear, God only knows it.”

Wednesday again, the wounded arrived by the dozens in hospitals: “It’s been three days now that the strikes have intensified, it is unbelievable,” said on his side the nurse Rabih Ahmed.

“We have ten dead, more than 70 wounded, some are in the operating room, their condition is critical,” he says, making the point at midday. Normally, the facility receives 50 to 60 casualties a day.

Ⓒ AFP – Hamza Al-Ajweh – | Two children rescued after regime strikes on the rebel city of Douma, near Damascus, February 7, 2018

For hospital staff, the task is also emotionally challenging.

The young 25-year-old nurse cracked, caring for a boy whose foot was partially cut by a bombardment, making amputation inevitable.

He says that the six-year-old boy kissed his hand, begging him to save his foot: “I left and started crying, I did not know what to do, it broke my heart.”

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