Syria Pictures: No Room Left for Families Trying to Shelter from Constant Bombing in Douma

Syrian children stand at the entrance to a basement being used as a make-shift bomb shelter in the rebel-held town of Douma, on March 8, 2018.Hamza al-Ajweh/AFP
Syrian children pose for a picture in a basement being used as a make-shift bomb shelter in Douma, on March 8, 2018.Hamza al-Ajweh/AFP

Syrian families have taken to living in crowded, dark basements to escape the constant bombing in Douma, the biggest town in the rebel-held eastern Ghouta enclave. As many as 300 people may be packed into a shelter, with no bathroom and just one toilet. However, more and more families are having to sleep in the open on the streets, because there is no more room in any of Douma's cellars. 

President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian allies 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 United Nations agencies for a humanitarian halt.

Government forces have now captured more than half the rebel enclave, entirely besieging Douma and the large town of Harasta, cutting them off from each other and neighboring areas. As the Syrian army pushes deeper into eastern Ghouta, thousands of families have fled from the front lines to Douma, hoping to escape bombing. The opposition-controlled town council said the situation had become "catastrophic," with no more room below ground for civilians to hide. At least 70 people had been buried in a town park because air strikes made it unsafe to reach the cemetery on the outskirts, it said.

Warplanes, helicopters and artillery rain down a near-constant stream of missiles, bombs, rockets and shells on the enclave, which is home to an estimated 400,000 civilians who face dire shortages of food and medicine, leading to severe malnutrition and ravaging illness.

Children take cover in a makeshift shelter in the besieged town of Douma, on March 11, 2018.Bassam Khabieh/Reuters
Children gather wood in the besieged town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, in Damascus, Syria March 9, 2018. Bassam Khabieh/Reuters
A Russian-made Syrian air force Su-17 fighter plane drops a payload as it flies over the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta on March 9, 2018.Hamza al-Ajweh/AFP
People inspect the remains of a rocket in the besieged town of Douma following air strikes on the enclave on on February 23, 2018. Bassam Khabieh/Reuters
The night sky is illuminated by Syrian government bombardment of the rebel-controlled town of Arbin, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region, on March 11, 2018.Ammar Suleiman/AFP
Heavy smoke billows following Syrian government bombardment in the town of Douma on March 10, 2018.Hamza al-Ajweh/AFP
Syrian men check the damage following government shelling on the town of Douma on March 10, 2018.Hamza al-Ajweh/AFP
A Syrian child walks down a street lined with destroyed buildings in the rebel-held town of Douma, on March 8, 2018.Hamza al-Ajweh/AFP
A shepherd leads his flock away from Douma to safer areas in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta, on March 7, 2018.Abdullah Hammam/AFP
Youths walk over the rubble of destroyed buildings in Eastern Ghouta on March 5, 2018.Hamza al-Ajweh/AFP
The rubble of several destroyed buildings is pictured in Douma on March 5, 2018.Amer Amolhibany/AFP
Abu Mohammad Alaya, 50, stands on debris, where he shelters in Douma, on March 2, 2018. Bassam Khabieh/Reuters

Syrian families have taken to living in crowded, dark basements to escape the constant bombing in Douma, the biggest town in the rebel-held eastern Ghouta enclave. As many as 300 people may be packed into a shelter, with no bathroom and just one toilet. However, more and more families are having to sleep in the open on the streets, because there is no more room in any of Douma's cellars. 

President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian allies 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 United Nations agencies for a humanitarian halt.

Government forces have now captured more than half the rebel enclave, entirely besieging Douma and the large town of Harasta, cutting them off from each other and neighboring areas. As the Syrian army pushes deeper into eastern Ghouta, thousands of families have fled from the front lines to Douma, hoping to escape bombing. The opposition-controlled town council said the situation had become "catastrophic," with no more room below ground for civilians to hide. At least 70 people had been buried in a town park because air strikes made it unsafe to reach the cemetery on the outskirts, it said.

Warplanes, helicopters and artillery rain down a near-constant stream of missiles, bombs, rockets and shells on the enclave, which is home to an estimated 400,000 civilians who face dire shortages of food and medicine, leading to severe malnutrition and ravaging illness.