By Kevin J. Jones
Syrian rebel forces have trapped over 12,000 Greek Catholics in a village near the Lebanese border, causing shortages of food, medicine and other urgent supplies.
For over 10 days the village of Rableh in the area of Homs has suffered under a strict blockade from armed opposition forces that have surrounded it, Fides news agency says. Snipers have killed at least three men of the village, including a married father of four.
Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gergorios III Laham has appealed to men of good will to ensure that “Rableh is saved and all other villages affected in Syria.” He has asked “for peace to be reached in our beloved country.”
Archbishop Mario Zenari, the apostolic nuncio to Syria, has asked both sides of the conflict to adhere to “the strict observance of the international humanitarian law.”
Rebels began an armed revolt against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in March 2011. Since then, more than 200,000 people have fled the country. Government forces drove out rebels from a Damascus suburb of Daraya on Friday.
The international pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need is helping an unnamed Syrian village in a situation similar to Rableh’s.
The destruction of bridges, the cutting of power lines and road obstacles have cut off the village from food and other basic necessities, the charity reports.
“We have organised ourselves so we could stand by each other and we are sharing everything so we could survive,” a local priest said. “We need every help we could get. Please help us.”
Those who have fled to Lebanon say that residents are suffering hunger and milk for children is running out. The village lacks canned goods and children’s diapers as well.
Motorcyclists trying to carry bread into the village have been shot at.
Aid to the Church in Need has made an emergency grant of $62,000 for food, medicine and baby milk.
“The fighting is reported to be fierce between the Free Syrian Army and official armed forces loyal to Assad,” Aid to the Church in Need journalist John Pontifex told CNA Aug. 24.
A government helicopter intending to attack rebel groups recently bombed the Greek Catholic monastery of St. James the Mutilated in Qara, which dates back to the sixth century. None of its 25 residents and 20 refugees were hurt but parts of the building were damaged.
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