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Ullin Hope & Albin Szakola

Regime warns residents of
besieged Damascus suburbs

Leaflets dropped over the embattled eastern Ghouta bore a warning of further destruction

Jaysh al-Islam rebels. (AFP/Amer Almohibany)

BEIRUT – The Syrian regime has dropped leaflets over rebel-held suburbs of Damascus bearing a warning of further destruction, despite the beginning of a fragile cessation of hostilities over the weekend.

 

Leaflets

Leaflets rain down over eastern Ghouta. (Twitter/Ayman Abo Anas)

 

The foreboding leaflets delivered Tuesday morning and over the past few days by military helicopters flying above the besieged eastern Ghouta suburbs of Syria’s capital called on residents to give up arms in return for an amnesty.

 

Leaflet 1

One of the leaflets dropped in eastern Damascus. (Facebook/Coordinating Committee of Harasta for the Syrian Revoution)

 

“It is far better for you to choose the path of safety and peace than the path of war and destruction,” one of the leaflets warned.

 

Those who voluntarily give up their arms will be regularized and none of them will be prosecuted.”

 

Leaflet 2

Another leaflet dropped in eastern Damascus. (Facebook/Coordinating Committee of Harasta for the Syrian Revoution)

 

Another leaflet entitled “What is best for you?” warned that the Syrian army “will continue to fight those who have caused all this destruction until they leave your areas.”

 

The regime’s main adversary to the east of the capital is the Jaysh al-Islam-led Unified Military Command of Eastern Ghouta, which also includes Faylaq al-Rahman, a powerful group that brought together a number of smaller Free Syrian Army-affiliated factions in late 2013.

 

“Those who will voluntarily give up their arms will be pardoned and none of them will be prosecuted,” the regime promised residents of the area who have chosen to fight the regime.

 

The leaflets called on residents to “stop bloodshed and evict the strangers,” in a veiled accusation that eastern Ghouta-based rebel groups are made up of foreign fighters, adding that it would “establish a safe passage for their exit.”

 

A spokesperson for Jaysh al-Islam has insisted that his group is composed entirely of Syrian fighters. For its part, Faylaq al-Rahman—which is widely considered to be a moderate faction—uses Syrian symbols in its media output rather than those commonly employed by transnational jihadist groups.

 

An activist based in the eastern Ghouta town of Douma—the site of previous bombardments that have left dozens of civilians dead—mocked the pamphlets.

 

“A moment ago the plane raided. I got out my pen and registered: breach of the truce number 145774455554. Then I realized that it was only a paper raid,” Ayman Abo Anas wrote on Twitter.

 

He added that local residents “trod [on the leaflets] as children collected them to clean the streets.”

 

Children

Children pick up leaflets dropped over eastern Ghouta. (Twitter/Ayman Abo Anas)

 

Abo Anas also posted a picture of children smiling as they held the leaflets aloft, writing, “They didn’t bother themselves with reading them. They collected them to burn them.”​​

 

The eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus have come under regular bombardment by regime forces since rebels first consolidated their presence in the early months of the Syrian civil war. A number of devastating barrel bombings on civilian targets in the region have killed hundreds; however the worst attack to hit the region came on August 21, 2013, when a pre-dawn chemical strike left over 1,300 dead.

 

Although violence dramatically subsided across Syria after the Saturday start of an internationally-brokered cessation of hostilities, including in eastern Ghouta, regime forces have continued to launch ground offensives into the besieged region.  

 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Monday that Syrian army troops had captured a strategically important strip of territory between the Ghouta towns of Beit Nayim and Harasta al-Qantara.

Jaysh al-Islam rebels walk through eastern Ghouta. (AFP/Amer Almohibany)

It is far better for you to choose the path of safety and peace than the path of war and destruction.