08/22/2013, 00.00
SYRIA
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Nuncio to Syria: war is escalating as UN calls for clarity on chemical attacks

The coming hours will be decisive in Damascus, Archbishop Mario Zenari tells AsiaNews. Franciscan monastery is hit in the capital; Syrian Catholic priest is wounded. UN Security Council continues to monitor the situation closely.

Damascus (AsiaNews) - For Mgr Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio to Syria, "decisive hours" have begun in Damascus, a possible prelude to further escalating the war that has inflamed Syria for the past two years.

"At least 40 rockets and howitzer shells have landed in the capital's old city this morning. The Franciscan monastery in Bab Touma was hit. A Syrian Catholic priest from outside the city was wounded and is now in hospital," the clergyman said.

For the papal representative, the war in Syria is getting more and more complicated. A solution seems out of reach.

"A biblical scholar once told me that if one goes into the desert, either you get lost, fail to find a way out within three days, or die because even with water and food, it is impossible to go back. This war has lasted for two and half years, that is more than three days. A solution seems almost impossible. Going back is also impossible." Instead, "things are getting more complicated with ever greater violence."

The opposition reported the latest brutal incident, claiming that about a thousand people, including many women and children, were killed yesterday on the outskirts of Damascus by chemical weapons.

Rebels posted amateur videos online that show a number of shrouded bodies without signs of injury or blood, lined up on the floor.

More footage shows people, including children, convulsing, foaming at the mouth, dizzy with signs of suffocation.

For the opposition, such images are a further proof that the Syrian government used nerve gas against its enemies.

The charge is important because a group of UN investigators is currently in Syria to investigate prior allegations about the use of chemical weapons in Aleppo.

France, Great Britain, and especially the United States have said on several occasions that the use of chemical weapons would be a "red line" that could trigger reprisals and new sanctions against the Syrian government, as well as greater military support for the opposition.

The Syrian government denied the allegations. For Damascus, the footage is a hoax and the opposition is to blame for the use of chemical weapons.

"There must be clarity on what happened and the situation must be followed closely," said Security Council president, Maria Cristina Perceval, during an emergency meeting of the UN body.

For months, the government and rebels have blamed each other for the use of chemical weapons, but no one has ever been able to pin down responsibility.

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