11/13/2015, 00.00
SYRIA
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In Damascus nuncio hopes to see words defeat weapons; meanwhile school bus is hit

by Elie Younan
Mgr Zenari told AsiaNews that the situation is tense, that shelling continues. One mortar round hit a school bus carrying children from a school run by the Greek Melkite Patriarchate. The nuncio visited the wounded in hospital this morning. Diplomatic activity picks up in Vienna to discuss the crisis. Reports suggest that Jihadi John was killed in a US drone strike.

Damascus (AsiaNews) – Diplomats are set to meet in Vienna tomorrow to find a solution to the Syrian conflict. Representatives from 20 nations and international organisations are coming to the summit in the Austrian capital to try to broker a ceasefire between the government and opposition groups.

In Syria itself, the blood-letting continues, with children among its victims, said Mgr Mario Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio to Damascus. In fact, yesterday, "a mortar round in Damascus hit a bus full of children going to school,” with many wounded.

"This morning I am going to the St Louis Catholic hospital, which is run by the Sisters of Charity, to visit the group children wounded,” he told AsiaNews from the Nunciature before he left.

The bus that was taking the pupils to school "was hit by a mortar, badly wounding people,” he said. For now, there is no further information about their conditions, but no one has died yet.”

"Yesterday was a really bad day,” Mgr Zenari added. “Fighting was intense with heavy shelling. The children were going to a school run by the Greek Melkite Patriarchate.

“As tensions continue to run high, an atmosphere of violence prevails in the capital and around the country,” he said.

According to some of the latest reports, the terrorist known as Jihadi John, the alleged executioner of several Western hostages, has been killed, by a US drone strike apparently. But that remains to be confirmed. The BBC quoted a US military source a saying there was a "high degree of certainty" he was killed yesterday. 

Meanwhile, diplomats and other representatives are arriving in Vienna to discuss ways to address the Syrian crisis, the humanitarian emergency, terrorism, and the opposition’s role.

So far, 250,000 people have died, and millions have been displaced. The discussions in the Austrian capital will be centred on who can participate to the political process and the fate of Syrian President Bashar al Assad.

Russia has recently come up with a "peace plan" that calls for constitutional reforms to be completed in 18 months, followed by early presidential elections.

Speaking about the Vienna meeting, UN Special Representative Staffan de Mistura said that world powers should “seize the moment”.

"We all hope and pray for the long-awaited moment when violence ends serious peace negotiations being,” Mgr Zenari said.

“We hope that people will interact with words, not weapons. We want to see the power of the word and diplomacy defeat the logic of conflict.”

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