09/11/2018, 18.15
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For Vicar of Aleppo, Idlib is a pretext to hit Syria. Christian families live in the area

Mgr Georges views international pressures as “scary”. A big chunk of the country cannot be left in the hands of terrorists and jihadists. The prelate complains that the media have not reported the death of six Christian children and women, hit by rockets launched by local extremist groups. The UN warns of the worst humanitarian crisis of the century.

Aleppo (AsiaNews) – International tensions around Idlib "are scary". In the country, there is a strong feeling that Western powers, especially the United States and its allies in the region, “are looking for a pretext" to strike at Syria, said Mgr Georges Abou Khazen, Apostolic Vicar of Aleppo of the Latins.

Speaking to AsiaNews, he noted that whilst "in all battles there is a real danger to civilians", it is not possible to leave an entire area of the country in the hands of jihadist groups and terrorists.

The prelate points to the rockets and grenades launched from the area against a Christian town, killing scores of people, mostly women and children.

For the vicar of Aleppo, it is necessary to keep the focus on the fate of the civilian population, but, at the same time, "Western governments and the mainstream media exacerbate the situation". In his view, Christian victims are often relegated to the side-lines.

"Four days ago, terrorist groups [close to Turkey] in Latamneh fired rockets at the Christian town of al-Mahardeh, killing ten people," he said, including "six were children and three women. Only the father survived” (pictured the family that was hit).

The area from where the rockets came is controlled by al Qaeda and is one of the targets of the offensive announced by the Syrian army, which seeks to regain control of the whole province. "No one spoke of this attack and that is unacceptable," Mgr Abou Khazen said.

Hopefully, "an agreement can be reached that leads true reconciliation" avoiding violence and fighting, he said. However, people "are sceptical. We need to understand Turkey’s position and evaluate its actions. Words are one thing, action on the grounds is another". For example, nothing came of last week’s meeting in Tehran between Russia, Turkey and Iran.

The exodus of millions of desperate people, who sought shelter outside the Middle East – in Europe, North America and Australia – is one of the most serious consequences of the conflict that has torn Syria apart for seven years.

The expected offensive against Idlib raises serious concerns about a new humanitarian emergency and its international repercussions with a possible intervention by the US-led Western bloc.

Washington has already threatened to attack Syria in case of use of chemical weapons in the province. For some critics, this is a pretext to move against Assad and its allies: Russia and Iran.

The main UN agencies present in the area are also raising the alarm, noting that more than 30,000 people have already fled the province in the first nine days of September. Some fear that this might become "the worst humanitarian catastrophe" of the century.

For apostolic vicar, this is overly dramatised. “The people at risk in the province of Idlib include at least 200 Christian families who never left the area, despite the presence of al Nusra terrorists,” the prelate explained.

"In six years, they saw their homes and land seized, had money stolen, and their women were forced to cover their heads. A statue of Our Lady was used for target practice. We hope that these people will be liberated because no one, be they Christian or Muslim, should live in the hands of terrorists.”

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