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» 07/17/2012
As fighting reaches Damascus, apostolic nuncio expects dark days ahead
Mgr Mario Zenari describes the tensions residents face. For the past two days, the capital has been the scene of fighting between rebels and the Republican Guard, with 64 dead. The witness of nuns from Azeir monastery (Homs) is a sign of hope for Christians, Alawis and Sunnis.

Damascus (AsiaNews) - "The situation is increasingly tense in Damascus. People are afraid to go out during the day in some neighbourhoods. Dark days are coming," Mgr Mario Zenari, Vatican nuncio in Damascus, told AsiaNews.

For the first time since the uprising began, the capital has been the scene of fighting between rebels and the Syrian military. Since 15 July, a unit from the rebel Syrian Free Army (Al-Jayš As-Suri Al-Ħurr) and the dreaded Syrian Republican Guard under Maher el-Assad, the president's brother, have been engaged in combat.

The harshest exchanges were in the historic al-Midan neighbourhood with the government using tanks, helicopters, snipers and heavy artillery.

Syrian activists reported the death of 64 people, including a number of civilians.

The fighting is affecting the entire population, Mgr Zenari said. But so far, no anti-Christian violence has been reported.

"In some areas of Damascus, as well as in many villages, the presence of Maronites, Catholics and Orthodox has helped reconciliation between Alawis and Sunni Muslims," the prelate said.

"Despite the dangers, many religious have chosen bear witness by staying with residents and sharing with them the pain and sorrow of the war."

For example, five Cistercian (Trappist) nuns from Italy live in Azeir (Homs), a small village near the border with Lebanon. Their "presence is a sign of hope for the residents of nearby villages who view their monastery as a place of peace that helps face the horrors of war," Mgr Zenari said.

In the meantime, a tug-of-war continues at the Security Council where China and Russia opposed their third no to a unanimous condemnation of the Syrian president.

Moscow yesterday also blocked a UN motion on the recent massacre in Tremseh in which some 200 people died, arguing that information about the incident were not impartial since it came from the opposition.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused Western nations of blackmail to force Russia to accept new sanctions against the Syrian regime.

A number of countries from the 'Friends of Syria' group, which includes members of the Security Council and the Arab League, are pushing for a UN resolution against Syria.

Some nations, like France, are vetting the possible use of force, as in Iraq (2003) and Libya (2011).

After defecting a few days ago, Syria's former ambassador to Iraq Nawaf Fares said today that President Bashar al-Assad will not hesitate in using chemical weapons to avoid losing power. (S.C.)

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See also
09/13/2013 SYRIA - UN - US - RUSSIA
Kerry, Lavrov, Brahimi: from chemical weapons to peace conference
12/29/2011 SYRIA
Arab League sends 26 additional “observers” to Syria
04/20/2012 SYRIA
Syria's ceasefire "very fragile"
10/31/2013 SYRIA
As OPCW destroys chemical plants, Assad insists only Syrians can "decide on Syria's future"
02/17/2012 SYRIA - UN
UN General Assembly condemns Syria

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