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article imageICRC says 'breathtaking' destruction in Syria's Ghouta

By AFP     Oct 26, 2018 in World

The destruction in Syria's Eastern Ghouta is overwhelming and the humanitarian needs huge, a top Red Cross official said Friday after visiting the former rebel stronghold outside Damascus.

Dominik Stillhart, director of operations for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said the scope of the devastation was still emerging, six months after the fighting ended.

"I was really overwhelmed by the level of destruction that we found in Eastern Ghouta. I've never seen anything like this ever before," he told journalists in Beirut.

After retaking significant territory from the Islamic State group, the government set its sights on recapturing Eastern Ghouta earlier this year, viewing the rebel presence so close to the capital as an affront to its authority.

It launched a massive Russian-backed offensive against the besieged rebel enclave that killed more than 1,700 civilians.

Tens of thousands of people fled as the enclave's towns surrendered one after the other.

The International Committee of the Red Cross's director of operations  Dominik Stillhart  says ...
The International Committee of the Red Cross's director of operations, Dominik Stillhart, says the scale of the destruction in the former rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta outside Damascus is the worst he has seen
LOUAI BESHARA, AFP/File

Residents have been trickling back to the area but the lack of infrastructure, the fear of arrest and the risk posed by unexploded ordnance are preventing mass returns.

"In some parts of Eastern of Ghouta like Harasta where we were, up to 90 percent of infrastructure is completely destroyed," Stillhart said.

"It's really breathtaking the level of destruction there," he said after his first visit to the area.

He said he saw a boy being given life-saving care by four people in a medical facility in the Eastern Ghouta town of Kafr Batna.

"The only light they had was a flash light from a mobile phone," he said. "These are the kind of conditions you would expect to see during the conflict but not six months after the conflict."

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