ASIA/SYRIA - In Ghuta, evacuation of civilians begins. Bishop Khazen says: the method used for Aleppo can work there too.

Monday, 12 March 2018 wars   middle east   oriental churches   refugees   jihadists  


Damascus (Agenzia Fides) – At least 52 civilians, including 26 children, were evacuated during Sunday 1 March from east Ghuta, an enclave east of Damascus controlled by anti-Assad militia and under siege by the Syrian army, where, according to UN sources there are an estimated 400,000 Syrians. The information, coming from Russian army sources, would seem to confirm voices – given also by Lebanese media– regarding talks between government forces and anti-Assad militia to find a solution to the crisis, to avoid further suffering and bloodshed, allow civilians to leave areas under siege and guarantee safe exit also for armed groups.
Ghuta has for weeks been the centre of government army attack– including also air raids – to take the stronghold held by the opposition including those connected with Jihadist groups. Syrian pro-government forces and also Russian sources have so far accused the anti-Assad militia of preventing the evacuation of civilians.
According to sources cited by Lebanese media, representatives of cities which are part of Ghuta, such as Hammuriyé, have reached an agreement with the government of Bashar Assad to allow government troops to enter inhabited areas, guaranteeing the transfer of anti-Assad armed troops to other parts of Syria still under the control of the rebel forces, like those present in the province of Idlib. Reportedly talks are taking place with members of Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, a Syrian group connected with the Al-Qaida network. “In Ghuta - Fides was told by Franciscan Bishop Georges Abou Khazen OFM, Apostolic Vicar of Aleppo for Latin rite Catholics – they could adopt the evacuation system used in December 2016 to transfer thousands of civilians and militiamen from the eastern districts of Aleppo to collection points near the border with Turkey. Today those areas too are gradually being repopulated and retuning to life”.
Bishop Khazen also told Fides of his impression during a recent visit to Damascus: “Over the past few months” said the Vicar Apostolic for Latin Catholics of Aleppo “from the area of Ghuta missile launching and mortar attacks have recommenced reaching historical districts of Damascus like Bab Tuma, where there are many church buildings. The attacks were carried out at precise times such as at the end of school lessons. Many people were killed”.
The Franciscan Bishops confirmed to Fides that also in Aleppo there is a visible presence of Russian citizens collaborating the government supporting initiatives on the part of the Russian Centre for reconciliation between the Syrian sides: “thanks also to this activity” said Bishop Khazen “hundreds of people are being reconciled with one another and this is the only way to guarantee a future of peace for Syria: in areas where these initiatives are working, people return, schools reopen and people begin to walk together again towards a normal life, after so much suffering and ferocious division ”. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 12/3/2018).