DAMASCUS (Reuters) – Amira Gharmoush's family has become a victim of the eastern Ghouta region near Damascus on both sides of the war. The 67-year-old Syrian mother of nine now hopes to reassemble what's left of it.
She fled four years ago from eastern Ghoutas when she was one of her three daughters Killed by insurgents in the area, the last major rebel stronghold near Damascus, until the Syrian government launched a cruel campaign to recapture it.
Two of her six sons accompanied her at this time on her journey from the east of Ghouta. They were detained by the Syrian government and have not heard from them since.
The other four sons remained in the east of Ghouta, separated from their mother on the fronts of a war that has devastated countless families and killed hundreds of thousands of people in the past seven years.
As the frontlines shifted in recent weeks, Gharmoush was reunited with two of her sons. They fled eastern Ghouta two weeks ago when the government's offensive approached their homes and uprooted them and many thousands more.
With the support of Russia, the attack underlined the invincible position of President Bashar al-Assad in the war.
Gharmoush spoke at a sheltered homeless shelter for the displaced people of the Syrian government of the Sons Who Ghouta recently left. She expressed the hope that she would soon see the two sons who remain in the area.
Both are in Douma, the last city under rebel control. "It's been four years since I saw her," she said with tears in her eyes.
"My hope is that my sons, who are in Ghouta, will disembark, and that those who are prisoners will disembark and bring my children together so that we all live together," Gharmoush said.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, more than 1,600 civilians were killed in the bombing of the area, which had been besieged for years.
Since the beginning of the offensive in February, more than 140,000 people have been displaced from eastern Ghouta, according to the Russian military and the observatory.
The Russian Ministry of Defense said around 32,000 rebels and members of their families were transported to opposition territories in the Idlib region of northwestern Syria on Friday, Interfax reported.
Many of those who did not go to Idlib are in shelters for the displaced people near Damascus. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid has stated that displaced persons should not leave the shelter until they have undergone a screening process.
Gharmoush sat next to her seven-year-old granddaughter – the daughter's daughter, who was killed four years ago and has been caring for her ever since.
Gharmoush says her daughter was killed for supplying bread to government forces stationed at a checkpoint near her village Otaya.
She did not say which rebel group the killers belonged to. Reuters could not verify the account.
Gharmaush, who has been working as a domestic worker in the capital since escaping from the farm, says she dreams of returning home in Otaya, where she keeps sheep and cows.
"I would be the first to return, if my home is destroyed, I will set up a tent like the one I am now and stay there, I will gather my children and we will stay together."
Report by Kinda Makieh in Damascus; Writing by Tom Perry: Editorial by Andrew Bolton