Refugee camp attack, odd for Syrian bishop; “blind violence” intensifies in Aleppo

Mgr Abou Khazen calls for caution before jumping to conclusions about the attack against a refugee camp near the Turkish border that killed 28. In Aleppo, people are living in fear or fleeing. Truce was broken “thousands of times”. Caritas Syria is set to organise a blood drive for Aleppo’s wounded. Tonight prayers for peace will be held in Damascus.

Damascus (AsiaNews) – Yesterday’ air raid against a refugee camp in Idlib province near the Turkish border – and killed 28 people, women and children included, wounding another 50 – has a number of "anomalies", this according to Mgr Georges Abou Khazen, Vicar Apostolic of Aleppo of the Latins about

First and foremost it is "odd" that the Syrian army or Russian fighters would "hit a refugee camp," especially one that is located "near the border with Turkey." Caution is needed in such cases, especially since the facts are not all that clear.

The Kamouna camp for internally displaced people is located in a rebel-held area, about four kilometres from Sarmada, and ten from the Turkish border.

UN officials have called for an investigation into the air strike against it. Some reports have pinned the strike on Syrian or Russian planes, but this has not been confirmed. Missiles fell near and inside the camp setting fire to a dozen tents.

Reacting to the incident, UN humanitarian affairs chief Stephen O'Brien said, "Be in no doubt that all these terrible acts, wherever they happen and whoever perpetrates them, will not be forgotten and the people who perpetrate them will be held to account."

In Aleppo though, moments of quiet and violence still alternate after government and rebels reached a partial truce last night under diplomatic pressure from Russia and the United States.

Some 300 people have died in clashes over the past two weeks, worsening an already bad humanitarian situation. Things are such that the UN has warned that if the nationwide cessation fails, it will be "catastrophic" and could send 400,000 more people to the border with Turkey.

Mgr Abou Khazen just got back to Aleppo after holding a series of meetings and conferences in Italy.

“I just went around the city,” he said. “I saw bombed out houses. I visited the wounded in hospital. It is really painful to see. People live in fear, and many have fled, leaving the city for safer places. Let us hope the truce holds.”

Aleppo recently became the main battleground in the Syrian conflict. Fr Ibrahim Alsabagh, guardian and parish priest of the Latin parish of Aleppo, sent AsiaNews a recent message mentioning a “truce violated thousands of times” and “scores of missiles falling on us”.

As this is happening, “the Syrian pound continues to slide, and a humanitarian catastrophe is becoming increasingly likely.” In government-controlled West Aleppo, “more than 600 houses have been damaged or destroyed.”

"We did not expect such viciousness,” the bishop said, “a viciousness that has spared no one or anything. Not one neighbourhood is safe. Recently, never-before used weapons have made their appearance with terrible power and efficiency. Such blind violence has touched five hospitals.”

This morning the situation was “relatively calm", the bishop noted. “Sunday (8 May) will be a day of Mass and prayer for peace in Aleppo and Syria,” he added. “Christians from all confessions will join in, united by an ecumenism of blood. I cannot rule out that Muslims will also take part. They did it in the past.”

In the south, in Damascus, Caritas Syria is planning a blood drive for Aleppo’s wounded. Inspired by the slogan ‘Aleppo is bleeding, long live Aleppo’, Christian activists plan to join it.

The nunciature is also very concerned about what is happening in the north, sources told AsiaNews. A prayer vigil for peace in Aleppo and Syria will be held tonight.

"Even yesterday, Pope Francis prayed for suffering nations,” a Church source said. “This is why our task is to heed this plea and pray some more to show our closeness to those who suffer and our support to everyone.” (DS)