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» 09/11/2013
SYRIA
Maaloula: Christians say announcement of withdrawal by Islamic rebels is false
A spokesman for the Free Syrian Army claim its forces evacuated the town in order to avoid bloodshed. Sources tell AsiaNews deny the report, saying terrorists are still entrenched in the town. With many residents are still holed up in their homes, Islamists are not letting anyone escape. In Damascus, hundreds of people attend the funerals of three young Catholics from Maaloula killed by Islamists.

Maaloula (AsiaNews) - The Free Syrian Army (FSA) announced that it withdrew its fighters from Maaloula in order to avoid bloodshed among civilians. Christian residents have denied the claim, saying that "Islamists have not left the city. The statement is false and only serve to turn away media attention."

Sources told AsiaNews that the city is now almost deserted (pictured), but "with several families still trapped in their homes due to the crossfire between rebels and the regular army."

"People that fled to Damascus," they added, "are working with the local church to bring aid or have at least news about relatives and friends in Maaloula. So far, after long negotiations with the leaders of the Islamic militias, Christians have recovered the bodies of three young Catholics killed by extremists on 7 September." Their funeral was held yesterday in the Greek-Catholic cathedral in Damascus in the presence of hundreds of people.

The attack by Islamic extremists in Maaloula began on 5 September, and has become a symbol of the suffering of Christians in Syria.

It also confirms the close cooperation between the FSA, which claims to be secular, and Islamic terrorists from the al-Nusra Front.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is linked to the rebel cause, confirmed the presence of al-Qaeda fighters among the forces that invaded the town and desecrated the monasteries of Saint Tecla and Saint Sergius, destroying ancient fixtures and the crosses on their domes.

A few days after the beginning of the devastation, which the FSA has denied, Maaloula Christians wrote a letter to the US Congress, denouncing the horrors committed by Islamist insurgents against the civilian population.

"At 04.00 in the morning hour 05/09/3 Damascus, armed gangs of so-called Free Syrian Army, terrorists Jabhat al-Nosra, and criminals of the Islamic Caliphate of Iraq and M. East attacked our city," the letter said. They looted our "monasteries and churches, removing sacred images as they went on, ordering residents to abandon their religion to convert to Islam to save their life." (S.C.)


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See also
07/26/2013 SYRIA
As UN reports more than 100,000 dead in Syria's civil war, opposition remains divided between Islamists and secularist
01/04/2012 SYRIA
Syrian crisis: Armed opposition threatens civil war
07/20/2012 SYRIA
The battle for Damascus continues as rebels take over border posts
03/22/2012 SYRIA
Lebanese border village shelled as UN calls for a stop to the violence
05/11/2012 SYRIA
UN condemns Damascus bombings. Regime and rebels must end violence

Editor's choices
IRAQ-ITALY
"Adopt a Christian from Mosul," the thanks of the Patriarch Louis Sako; the concerns of the Bishop of Kurdistan
by Bernardo CervelleraThe head of the Chaldean Church is grateful for the AsiaNews campaign and hopes that "this chain of solidarity will reach far and wide”. Helping refugees to remain in Iraq. But many want to flee abroad. The bishop of Amadiyah where thousands of displaced people have found haven in churches and homes: We also help the Arabs (Muslims), and Yazidis, for free and without looking at our confessional differences.
ITALY - IRAQ
"Adopt a Christian from Mosul" to respond directly to Iraq's emergencyAsiaNews is launching a fundraiser to support Christians targeted by the Islamic State, thus responding to a request by the Patriarch of Baghdad and Pope Francis's urgent appeal "to guarantee all necessary assistance - especially the most urgently needed aid - to the great multitude of people who have been driven from their homes, whose fate depends entirely on the solidarity of others." More than 100,000 people have been forced to flee their homes leaving everything behind and now have nothing to live on. To help them, five euros a day are enough. The funds raised will be sent to the Patriarchate of Baghdad, which will distribute them according to the needs of each family.
CHINA - VATICAN
Wenzhou bishop and priests slam government's campaign against crosses and churches in Zhejiang
by Eugenia ZhangFor Mgr Vincent Zhu Weifang, from the official Church, the campaign of destruction is increasing social instability. It is real persecution against the Christian faith. The bishop apologises for failing to intervene sooner. He was hoping that the campaign would end quickly. Catholics and Protestants suffer injuries as they attempt to defend their sacred buildings. For priests in Wenzhou, the campaign is unfair and touches buildings that have all the right papers. Such "stupid acts" by the government are undermining social harmony.

Dossier
by Giulio Aleni / (a cura di) Gianni Criveller
pp. 176
by Lazzarotto Angelo S.
pp. 528
by Bernardo Cervellera
pp. 240
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