*** Saqba was reclassified from a Tier 1 siege to the Siege Watch 'Watchlist' on 31 March 2018, when most of Eastern Ghouta reverted entirely to government control following a final scorched earth offensive, surrender deal, and forced population transfers to northern Syria. ***
Post-siege Note: Saqba was captured by pro-government forces on 18 March 2018 during an unprecedented and devastating final scorched earth campaign by the Syrian government and its allies. Saqba was not depopulated during the final offensive, but no good estimates of the current population are available due to the massive displacement and the lack of access. As of June 2018, international access remained severely limited, civilians were still being denied freedom of movement, and communication was heavily monitored. Although Saqba was heavily damaged (more than a quarter of its infrastructure had been destroyed even before the start of the final offensive) it was not entirely destroyed, and the government will likely repopulate the area further in the near future either by allowing more residents to return, or distributing confiscated property to government supporters. It will therefore remain on the Siege Watch 'Watchlist' pending information on future developments.
*** In mid-November 2017, for the first time since the start of the Siege Watch project in late 2015, Saqba's siege designation was elevated from Tier 2 to Tier 1 long with the rest of Eastern Ghouta. With the onset of winter the entire besieged enclave is facing a humanitarian catastrophe. ***
Dates: Besieged since mid-2013 along with the rest of Eastern Ghouta
Siege classification: Tier 1
Besieged by: Syrian govt.
UN recognizes siege?: Yes
Active Truce?: No
Current population: 22,000 (as of 07/31/2017); (note: low-confidence estimate)
Aid: Saqba was one of two towns to receive a UN aid shipment on 30 October 2017. This was the first such aid shipment to reach Saqba since June of 2016.
Siege-related deaths: Yes. A number of deaths in 2017 due to lack of medical treatment, coupled with malnutrition. Recently, on 13 Nov. a child named Walid died due to a heart condition and on 2 Nov. a 1 year old girl named Maram died due to a kidney condition. In both cases requests for medical evacuation for treatment outside of the besieged area were denied.
Active conflict: Yes, frequent attacks by pro-government forces, often leading to civilian casualties. Schools and medical centers repeatedly targeted.
Additional Details: Prices in Eastern Ghouta started to increase notably in July 2017 when the Syrian government ended the monopoly of the trader al-Manfoush at al-Wafideen checkpoint, placed further restrictions on basic goods like flour, and intermittently cut all commercial access. According to international agencies, access was finally cut in September or early October 2017. The halt in entry of limited commercial supplies via al-Wafideen is so damaging because it was one of the few remaining ways that people could get supplies. Smuggling tunnels from Eastern Ghouta to Barzeh and Qaboun were captured by pro-government forces earlier in 2017, and much of the rural southern agricultural sector of Eastern Ghouta was captured by government forces in mid-2016.
Saqba is one of the communities in Eastern Ghouta that receives displaced people uprooted from other towns that are under attack. The displacements are ongoing and population continues to fluctuate.