On November 8, 2017, several cities and towns in Eastern Ghouta, located in Damascus countryside, witnessed a military escalation by Syrian regular forces and its allies. Syrian regular warplanes launched approximately 19 airstrikes on towns and cities of Arbin, Saqba, Hamouriya and Douma; the most-severe raids was that targeted Harasta city, where warplanes dropped rockets loaded with incendiary materials (similar to incendiary napalm), as a few eyewitnesses and residents of the city confirmed to Syrians for Truth and Justice/STJ reporter.
Ahmad Jalal, a resident of Harasta, who was near the location targeted in Harasta on November 8, 2017, spoke to STJ about the incident and said:
"At 12:55 p.m., warplanes launched the first airstrike on the city and we heard no sound of explosion, but about five minutes later, the second airstrike was carried out, as warplanes dropped rockets near my house, while my children were inside; immediately I took them downstairs to the basements. I have never seen such fires caused by rockets. I tried hard to put out the fire that stretched to my house and spread in it, even aluminum on the windows melted completely, so I put some blankets over the ignition sites, and while I was doing it, I smelled abhorrent smells that I could not bear which caused pains in my head and shortness of breath. As a result, I was taken to a medical center in the city, and was treated for two hours until I was improved."
Image shows attempts by Civil Defense to extinguish fires that erupted inside residential buildings in Harasta, due to Syrian regular forces shelling by rockets loaded with incendiary materials.
Photo credit: harstarevo 123.
A further image of the damage caused by the fires in the residential buildings in Harasta, following shelling it with rockets loaded with incendiary materials on November 8, 2017.
Photo credit: harstarevo 123
A video footage published by Ghouta Media Centre on November 8, 2017, showed members of Civil Defense while extinguishing fires in Harasta; fires are said to be the result of targeting the city with rockets loaded with incendiary napalm by Syrian regular forces.
Yahiya Salloum, an officer in charge of the Civil Defense Center in Harasta, told STJ that Syrian regular warplanes targeted the only two densely populated neighborhoods in Harasta city. He noted that civilians had left their homes immediately after the initial raid, and so no deaths reported. Salloum also stressed that the first raid carried out by warplanes had no sound of explosion, and in this regard, he continued:
"We were used to hear the sound of a severe explosion after any raid by warplanes, but on that day, we heard nothing; when members of the Civil Defense hurried to the location of the rockets, they were shocked when they saw everything burning, as fires had devoured up to 20 houses. As a result, many civilians have been suffocated while some slightly injured. The Civil Defense team was not able to extinguish fires because there were many, so we asked help from other centers in Eastern Ghouta. Nevertheless, our attempts to extinguish fires continued until 7 p.m., as we were equipped with up to eight vehicles and up to forty members of the Civil Defense. When we attempted to extinguish the fires, they were returning to outbreak; we completely mobilized until we managed to control those fires."
Yahiya Salloum was likely to think that the materials contained in the rockets were incendiary because the more they tried to extinguish them, the more they flame again once they were exposed to air and oxygen. He also pointed out that the material was very unpleasant and caused shortness of breath to some members of the Civil Defense whom three of them were then given help and "spray" sessions-that is, they were placed on clean oxygen respiratory devices, as a result of inhaling some odors during the process of extinguishing fires. Salloum added:
"Earlier this year, on February 23, 2017, Harasta was subjected to aerial bombardment by rockets carrying incendiary materials similar to napalm too; I remember how bad the smells were and how fires spread all over the place just like the last incident. However, these rockets carried more concentrated materials than the rockets dropped on November 8, 2017, due to the severity of the symptoms and the stench that it created."
A video footage published by Ghouta Media Centre on November 8, 2017, showed some residential buildings burning in Harasta; fires are said to be the result of targeting the city with rockets loaded with incendiary napalm by Syrian regular forces.
It is worth mentioning that on May 4, 2017, the sponsor states of Astana Talks (Russia, Turkey and Iran) had signed a memorandum of understanding to establish de-escalation zones in Syria; the areas included Eastern Ghouta in Damascus countryside, Idlib province and some parts of northern Homs province, as well as some parts of the adjacent provinces (Latakia, Hama, and Aleppo) and some parts of southern Syria. One of the most prominent items is the cessation of hostilities between conflicting parties and the creation of conditions for the access of medical aids.
On July 22, 2017, the Islamic Army/Jaysh al-Islam participated in signing the Agreement of de-escalation zones in Syria, followed by Faylaq al-Rahman faction, on August 18, 2017, where the Russian side and Faylaq al-Rahman agreed to ceasefire and continue to fight the al-Nusra Front as well.
STJ had earlier published a report on the death and injury of a number of victims of civilian children, as a result of the shelling of two schools by Syrian regular forces in Eastern Ghouta in Damascus countryside. STJ had also issued another report highlighting violations of de-escalation zones in Eastern Ghouta.
 Harasta is fully controlled by Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiyya/ formerly Liwa Fajr al-Uma