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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
VATICAN
Pope: I am with the persecuted Christians of Mosul and the Middle East "May the God of peace inspire in all a genuine desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence is never defeated with violence. Violence is defeated with peace." At the Sunday Angelus Francis comments on the parable of the wheat and the weeds. God is "patient" He knows "the same weeds in the end, may become good wheat". But "at the time of the harvest, that is, of judgment, the reapers will execute the order of the master separating the weeds to be burned".
CHINA - VATICAN
Beijing, seminarians desert graduation ceremony: We will not celebrate Mass with illegitimate bishops The rector of the seminary is the illegitimate bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin: Students refuse to concelebrate with him and reject Msgr. Fang Xingyao, who has participated in several illegal episcopal ordinations. The directors close the year without awarding diplomas and send students home: rumors of some courses being "suspended" in September. The precedent of 2000, when 130 young students chose fidelity to the Pope over compromise with the government.
HONG KONG-CHINA-VATICAN
Card Zen: Religious freedom and civil liberties are united, for China and Hong Kong
by Bernardo CervelleraA wide ranging conversation with the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong: the courage of Msgr. Ma Daqin, who sent a message to Pope Francis; underground Catholics are also prepared to be arrested; suspicions about Beijing’s sincerity towards possible dialogue with the Holy See. And in Hong Kong, the march for a referendum on democracy; support for "Occupy Central"; the fear of the government and arrests. Card. Zen reaffirms that religious freedom and civil liberties go hand in hand.

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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