This morning some "rockets launched from the eastern sector" of Aleppo landed in "the predominantly Christian district of Sulaymaniyah" in the west and "hit a school, killing at least four children,” said Mgr Georges Abou Khazen, vicar apostolic to Aleppo of the Latins, who spoke with AsiaNews, evidence of the spiral of violence and terror that is engulfing northern Syria’s metropolis.
"We do not want all these deaths, this destruction,” the prelate
said, “yet the tragedy continues and involves both sides of the city . .
. Everyone here is suffering. Families in both east and west continue
to count and mourn their dead."
For weeks, Syria’s old economic capital has been split between a
government-controlled western section with more than a million people,
and a rebel-held eastern section with 250,000 residents that is the main
battleground of the Syrian conflict. Yet, the media continue to talk
about and denounce only the violence in east Aleppo.
Yesterday during his general audience, Francis renewed his appeal for peace in all of Syria, which he had called a "beloved and troubled" land in his statement announcing the appointment of Apostolic Nuncio Mgr Mario Zenari to the post of cardinal.
In asking for an urgent ceasefire to alleviate the suffering of the city’s residents, the pontiff underlined and reiterated his “closeness to all the victims of the inhuman conflict in Syria”.
The pope called for a truce in the fighting, at least “for the time
necessary to evacuate the civilians, especially children, who are still
trapped by the cruel bombings”.
Yet, less than 24 hours after the pope’s
appeal, Aleppo weeps again for new victims among children.
"It's always the same old story,” Mgr Abou Khazen said, “with
regional and international powers not working for peace. The pope’s
words are very important because they make us feel his closeness but
unfortunately these appeals fall on deaf ears.”
“The players are not interested in what is happening to people even
though now more than ever a truce is needed to alleviate the suffering
and bring some aid and comfort."
For the apostolic vicar, a truce would be a "first step" towards
gradual progression "on the path of peace to relieve suffering and
"Aleppo is now a living hell,” the prelate added. It is a “hell that
touches everyone, east and west, full of death and destruction, refugees
and lack of electricity and water, families who touch pain with their
hands on a daily basis".
Such suffering "cannot be described with words," but it has not led
to the loss of "hope for a solution to the conflict, because in the end,
some agreement will be reached, even though selfishness now prevails."
The alternative to peace, warns the apostolic vicar, is a war that
from the local level "will expand to the regional and global level."
In addition to bombs, rumours are all over the place, with some
saying that the United States and Saudi Arabia "are negotiating to
facilitate the safe escape of Islamic State jihadists from Mosul to
When the Americans threatened to bomb on their own, "we feared the
worst . . . This would be a terrifying prospect for everyone."
Drawing a parallel with the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, this could
trigger a nuclear conflict on a global scale. "Our hope is that today,
like then, the logic of peace will prevail,” the vicar said. “We reached
the highest point of the crisis; now we hope in the sense of
responsibility of all the players involved."
Meanwhile, there are other flashpoints. "The situation in Homs is
calmer," but fighting continues "around Hama, in some suburbs of
Damascus and other parts of the country."
Even though "many rebel groups, mainly Syrian, are willing to put
down their weapons and sign an agreement", interventions by larger
groups, above all extremists and jihadists, "nips in the bud such
Since a fragile truce was broken after just one week in September,
the conflict has escalated.
In five years, more than 300,000 people
(430,000 according to some sources) have died and millions have become
refugees. According to some, the last few hours saw the most intense
bombardments in a while.
Last week Russia vetoed a UN Security Council draft resolution
proposed by France, calling for a stop in the air raids in Aleppo. This
decision sparked a diplomatic row between Moscow and Paris, ending with
the decision of Russian President Vladimir Putin to "postpone" his visit to his French counterpart François Hollande.
Tensions have also mounted between Moscow and London after British
Foreign Minister Boris Johnson called for demonstrations in front of the
Russian Embassy in the United Kingdom against the bombing in Aleppo.
Moscow reacted by describing Johnson’s remarks as "shameful" and
However, Washington and Moscow are even more at odds as the two
superpowers are on opposing sides in the Syrian war. The White House is
close to the (so-called) moderate opposition – but also to extremist
groups – whilst the Kremlin is the main backer of the Damascus
To avert further escalation in the Syrian conflict, Moscow – which
has been accused of "war crimes" in Syria – and Washington are set to
meet again on 15 October in Lausanne, Switzerland, in a multilateral
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are expected to attend.
The two spoke by telephone in recent days, and are expected to be
joined in Lausanne by counterparts from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Neither side has confirmed an invitation to Iran, a key player in the conflict and an ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The United Nations said that Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura has been
invited to the talks but a spokesman said he did not know if he would