Small Wars Journal

Eastern Ghouta, Syria: The Siege That Forced a Suburb Underground

Eastern Ghouta, Syria: The Siege That Forced a Suburb Underground by Tamara Qiblawi and Frederik Pleitgen, Video by Claudia Otto – CNN

Eastern Ghouta, Syria (CNN) - Not a building in Eastern Ghouta has emerged unscathed after six years of war. The people who remained have carved out livable space within the destruction. Along the side of a road, a boy sat on a burnt barrel atop a mound of debris. Two toddlers played inside a blown-up truck. A barber went about his business inside his ravaged shop.

CNN visited the shattered suburb last week in the company of the Syrian military and saw the vestiges of the Damascus suburb's double life, above and below ground.

"It's so good to see you!" said 65-year-old Abu Yasmina as we walked on the dusty road next to his ruined house. "We've missed seeing strangers around here after all this time. Welcome!"

Eastern Ghouta's residents dispatched a battery of adjectives to describe life in the former rebel enclave, besieged by government forces for six years: "a nightmare;" "a tragedy;" "beyond description."

Many buildings have lost their facades, exposing apartments to the outside world. They offer a glimpse of what life might have been like before a siege all but ended in March following a fierce two-month offensive by the Russian-backed government of Bashar al-Assad.

International observers said that offensive killed well over 1,000 people in the process of driving out rebel fighters. Scores more died in Saturday's attack on Douma, which Western governments and rebels say involved the use of a chemical agent. They blame the Assad regime for that horrific attack, but the Syrian government and its Russian allies have denied using gas there…

Read on.