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ICC Note:  The Prelate of Aleppo warns that there are at least 200 known Christian families living in Idlib. The number does not include the amount of Christian converts who are taking refuge in Idlib. It is expected that the worst humanitarian crisis in the Syrian Civil War’s history is building in Idlib because of the anticipated offensive. Syrian government forces are seeking to capture the province, which is the last remaining opposition stronghold in the country.      

09/11/2018 Syria (Asia News) – 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.

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