07/12/2016, 14.35
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Vicar of Aleppo: Too much violence, we have to suspend activities. But our churches will stay open

Heavy shelling all day yesterday caused dozens of victims among the civilian population. Msgr. Abou Khazen: the front is elsewhere, these are revenge attacks by the rebels on  government areas.  The vicariate suspends activities and summer camps for young people. The church is only open for prayer and functions.


Aleppo (AsiaNews) - This is no longer a war, but horrific "bloodshed" in the context of an escalation of violence "that is really frightening".  It is not a case of war between two factions, between two armies "but only the bombing of defenseless civilians", Msgr. Georges Abou Khazen, Vicar Apostolic of Aleppo of the Latins, describes a reality marked by years of war and violence, and long the epicenter of the Syrian conflict.

Throughout the day yesterdaythe rebels in the east shelled neighborhoods in the west, which is controlled by the government army. "Today is a bit 'quieter - adds the prelate - but it is a situation of apparent calm. There are agreements, there are no negotiations between the parties and there will soon be new shelling ".
In recent days, the army had cut off the only access route (the Castle Road) to the east of Aleppo, under the control of the rebels, in which about 300 thousand people live. In response, yesterday the militants launched a counter-offensive to try to reopen the gate. However, the action was thwarted by soldiers loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Hence the rebel decision to attack, with a rain of missiles and rockets, the western area of ​​the city in the hands of government.
The rebels counter-attack began at dawn yesterday targeting several fronts; in a few hours they launched hundreds of missiles and rockets. According to state media so far eight people have been killed and dozens wounded, but the toll looks set to get worse as the hours pass.
Once the economic and comercial hub of Syria, much of Aleppo has been the scene of months of heavy fighting. Since 2012 the city is divided into two sectors, government and "rebel". Clashes have intensified with the failure of the indirect peace negotiations under the UN auspices and failure to apply the partial truce promoted by the US and Russia earlier this year. Behind the attacks are also rebel groups and extremist factions, including the militia of al-Nusra Front (Al-Qaeda in Syria); jihadists of the Islamic State are still about 20km from the metropolis.

Reached by AsiaNews, the apostolic vicar of Aleppo speaks of "heavy shelling throughout the day yesterday." The missiles "have also affected our pastoral center" he adds, fortunately "there have been no casualties, as was unfortunately the case elsewhere." For security reasons, Msgr. Georges says the vicariate "has suspended all activities in the summer program, including playtime and recreation for the children".
The bishop adds that "only the church will stay open so that the faithful can come and pray or attend services. Everything else has been stopped for now".
 "Unfortunately - concludes the Vicar of Aleppo - here we are not facing a clash between two armies, because the front is elsewhere. This is about attacks against civilians out of sheer vindictiveness, with increasingly sophisticated weapons".

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