Even as the 15 member-states on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) were gathering to talk in New York on Friday, warplanes from the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad were pounding the besieged enclave of eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of Damascus. Inside the last bastion of anti-regime rebels, the civilians caught in the enclave endured a sixth straight day of bombing while they have been under a virtual non-stop siege since 2013. It’s difficult to describe the conditions inside the enclave, food is virtually non-existent, medical facilities are primitive and water is critically low. In a word, it’s hell.
Despite the best efforts of most UNSC members, a vote on calling for a 30-day ceasefire in and around eastern Ghouta was delayed until late last afternoon, and there is indeed still doubt as to whether the UNSC will be able to reach any agreement that is acceptable to Russia, who remains a staunch defender of the Al Assad regime. But whatever the political motivations, this is an immediate and most urgent crisis that demands attention now.
The aim of the UNSC resolution is to secure a 30-day moratorium on military action on the enclave and to establish a humanitarian corridor that will allow for the evacuation of those who wish to leave and for those injured who need urgent and essential medical attention. There is no other game plan at foot here, no other motive, no other big-picture plan. The resolution is a desperate attempt to show that the international community can actually make a difference when it matters most, that it cares and will not allow civilians to be blown to kingdom come, and that people’s lives matter. How can anyone with a caring heart allow this slaughter to continue unabated? By allowing a humanitarian corridor, aid and relief supplies can be brought in, the injured and unarmed can leave. A ceasefire can make all that possible.
What the UNSC seeks is not unprecedented and similar ceasefires and humanitarian corridors are needed for the sieges of Aleppo and Homs to be lifted as well, allowing for an end to the horrific conditions endured by those living through similar catastrophic conditions there.
Now is not the time for Russia or others to delay action on ceasefire. Now is when the people in eastern Ghouta need help, and now is the time when we must actually show we care.