01/23/2018, 12.54
SYRIA
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Nuncio in Damascus: mortar fire against the old city still causing victims among Christians

Some rockets fired from the enclave of Goutha killed at least eight people and wounded twenty. The dead include a 17-year-old girl and a child of three. For Card Zenari, the road to peace is still "very long"; in some areas of the country "disturbing chapters" have opened up. In the capital, the situation is "increasingly critical".

Damascus (AsiaNews) - The Syrian conflict "is still underway" and the "road" to a "stable and lasting" peace is still "very long". In some areas of the country, "violence has diminished" and the situation "seems calmer", but in others "disturbing chapters have opened up," said Card Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio to Damascus, as he commented on the violence that has hit certain sectors of the Syrian capital in recent hours, causing "victims and serious injuries" even among Christians.

Yesterday in Damascus mortar fire from the rebel enclave of Goutha, on the eastern outskirts of the capital, hit the old city and some Christian neighbourhoods including Bab Touma and al-Shaghour, causing at least eight deaths in the Christian community.

The dead include a 17-year-old girl named Rita (pictured), two other teenagers and a three-year-old child. To these must be added more than 20 wounded, but the count could rise in the next few hours.

Rockets also landed on several buildings and places of worship, causing more damage to some churches already hit in the last few weeks.

According to some estimates, six years of bombings and shelling in the capital have killed about 7,000 people and wounded at least 21,000 more.

"Yesterday I was by chance passing by the French hospital in the afternoon, at around 4 pm,” Card Zenari told AsiaNews, “when I saw various wounded people, so much blood everywhere that it was upsetting, the wounded taken from the old city of Damascus that had come under mortar fire.”

“The rocket fire started around 2 pm and caused a lot of damage. At least 20, if not 30 wounded. There is still no official tally. And there are also countless deaths. Some students who left the Christian schools" are among the people affected by the mortar fires, the apostolic nuncio noted.

According to the cardinal, the situation in Damascus has become increasingly "critical" in recent weeks as a result of "the shelling and rockets". In the past, the capital could be considered "quieter", but in the last while "rocket fire has increased" affecting people and places of worship.

"There was mortar fire in the past, but they were minor episodes,’ Card Zenari added. “But now the conflict has flared up again," and is affecting the capital’s Christian community.

"It is hard to understand if they are targeting Christians in particular or if they are randomly firing rockets. It is difficult to figure this out and so we must not draw hasty conclusions."

For the prelate, the most plausible interpretation "is that the acts of violence of this terrible conflict are still ongoing and that the road to achieving a lasting stable peace is still very long".

"In some areas of the country it seems to be decreasing, whilst elsewhere (see the Turkish offensive in Afrin) other disturbing chapters are being opened. We hoped the war was ending, but today it seems that the road to that is still long.” (DS)

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