Civilians "waiting for death" as Assad decimates rebel enclave

Syria's government-run media call reports of an ongoing deadly assault on civilians "lies and deceptions." But graphic video from the besieged eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus shows the reality of an ever-escalating civil war that has civilians trapped in the middle of what's been described as a bloodbath.

Government airstrikes continue to pummel what's left of the rebel-held towns of eastern Ghouta. With every bomb dropped, civilians scramble to find safety. Syria's volunteer rescue service, known as the White Helmets, capture the chaos after each strike as they claw through dust and rubble to try and find survivors.

The wounded are rushed to hospitals and makeshift clinics in the suburbs which are already overflowing with victims and desperately low on medical supplies. And even there, nobody is safe.

"Over the last 24 hours, 12 medical centers have been hit (by strikes) inside Ghouta," Dr. Ahmed Tarakji tells CBS News.

Tarakji is president of the Syrian American Medical Society, which has teams working in eastern Ghouta. Two of his staff were killed recently.

WARNING: This report includes graphic imagery.

"The past 48 hours equals, or is very comparable to, the last two days in Aleppo, and those are the peak of the deterioration of the humanitarian situation inside Syria. Those are the worst times and days in the war in Syria."

The rebel-held enclave of eastern Ghouta, just outside the capital city, has been under siege for more than five years as the Syrian regime, backed by allies Russia and Iran, works to systematically crush the rebel forces hiding here.

Civilians in Ghouta still live in fear after the 2013 chemical attack on the area that shocked the world. It is a lawless landscape, where rebels have used civilians as shields and where government forces have not hesitated to fire back.

The last two days have been the deadliest in years but the Syrian government shows no sign of letting up, vowing to wipe out the rebels in eastern Ghouta, which, like all opposition forces, are dismissed as terrorists by the Assad regime and its allies.


The bodies of people, including children, killed in Syrian army bombardment on the town of Hamouria in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta, are seen lying on the ground at a make-shift morgue the morning after the attacks, Feb. 20, 2018.


"Families are packed in small basements. They are waiting for the war to stop but also they realize that all those missiles being utilized are able get through the walls, getting through the basements," Tarakji tells CBS News. "It's a matter of them praying that the missiles will miss their basement. Hunger is one factor, but they are waiting for death."

Pro-government forces are reportedly preparing a new ground assault on eastern Ghouta. Tarakji says he knows families who want to leave but won't, too worried that government forces who control the checkpoints around eastern Ghouta will consider them rebels and kill them.