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Two Thousand Kessab Armenians Find Safety in Latakia

Latakia Christians

The Armenian Weekly – “A delegation of priest from the Catholicosate of Cilicia who had visited Latakia to assess the needs of Kessab Armenians and express solidarity returned to Antelias after the Sunday Badarak.

According to the delegation, the local Armenian community, the International Red Cross, and the Red Crescent are providing assistance to those who have sought refuge in the city. An estimated 2,000 Kessab Armenians are currently in Latakia.

‘Many Armenian families are staying with relatives and friends, while others have sought refuge in the Armenian Church and the church’s hall,’ said Syrian Armenian community activist Nerses Sarkissian during a phone interview with Weekly editor Khatchig Mouradian.

‘The Aleppo Armenian Prelacy as well as the Red Crescent are providing relief and assistance to these families in Latakia,’ Sarkissian added.

Extremist fighters engage in robbery and desecration

The fighters, mostly from the extremist Nusra Front, who have entered Kessab are desecrating churches, pillaging houses, and destroying government buildings, Sarkissian told the Weekly. A few Syrian Armenians have been unable to leave Kessab, and their fate is unclear, he added.

Sarkissian underlined that the fighters came from the Turkish side of the border and are receiving support from the Turkish military. He noted that the injured among them are being transported back to Turkey to receive medical attention…

Perched in the northwestern corner of Syria, near the border with Turkey, Kessab had, until very recently, evaded major battles between the army and rebels. Many Syrians had taken refuge there because of the relative calm in the area over the past three years.” Read more.

 

WARNING: Brink of Catastrophe – Central African Republic

Africa-CAR-01

By Lois Kanalos

In December 2012, Michel Djotodia held a key position in Seleka (an alliance of militias) when it succeeded in quickly gaining control of a large area of Central African Republic. Last March, the Seleka, a predominantly Muslim rebel coalition led by Djotodia, overthrew former President François Bozizé from CAR’s majority Christian population. Djotodia claimed himself President becoming CAR’s first Muslim leader and a nightmare began.

The militia group continued committing mass atrocities, such as executions, rape and looting according to Human Rights Watch.To distance himself from the horrors, Djotodia disbanded the Seleka in Sept. 2013. The ex-rebel fighters then integrated into the national army. And the violence did not end.

A September Human Rights Watch report details the Seleka’s deliberate killing of civilians including women, children, and the elderly between March and June. It also confirmed the destruction of more than 1,000 homes, both in the capital, Bangui, and the provinces. The Christians felt forced to form militia groups, which are known as anti-Balaka.

Last month, Christian militias struck back. Amnesty International reports a million people, approximately 20% of the population have been forced to flee the attacks as a result of the violence pitting Muslims against Christians, and northerners against southerners. At least 1,000 people have died since the clashes broke out in December and added the true number of the dead may never be known. They have also expressed concern for the overcrowded refugee camps with unsanitary conditions, warning a humanitarian disaster may be about to occur.

Thousands in the Central African Republic’s capital, Bangui are celebrating the resignation of the country’s interim president. Michel Djotodia quit from international pressure over his failure to squelch the rampant violence. He had been summoned to a regional summit in Chad where his resignation was announced along with that of his prime minister Nicolas Tiangaye.

Foreigners were also targets of violenceAn operation has been set up by International Organization for Migration to airlift thousands of African migrants stranded in dire humanitarian conditions out of the ravaged nation, today. 

IOM official, Francois Goemans said he was shocked by the conditions endured by the migrants, which he said were the worst he had seen in 20 years in the field.

People have been living in makeshift transit camps for a couple of weeks in difficult conditions and with very little support, he said.

“The situation is terrible,” he said. “There’s diarrhea, the sanitation is terrible.
“People are traumatized, people are dealing with some strains that you cannot believe — so many of their relatives have been killed … and they are all traumatized.”

Claims have been made for an urgent need for peacekeeping troops.  Joanne Mariner, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Advisor stated,

“Tensions are going to be particularly high in the Central African Republic in the wake of the interim President’s resignation, highlighting the desperate need for increased protection for the civilian population.”
“Today’s resignation by Djotodia could easily trigger revenge attacks by the anti-balaka Christian militias against the Muslim community. The Muslim ex-Seleka forces are also heavily armed, creating a real risk of the violence escalating even further. The safety and protection of civilians have to be paramount.”
“As inter-communal hatred and mistrust deepens across the country, there has to be clear information, widely communicated to the population, as to what security measures will be put in place next.”
“This unremitting violence has gone on for far too long. Now is the time for more concrete action by the international community for calm and security to return to the country.”

The African Union has 4,000 peacekeepers in the country. France has deployed 1,600 troops to try to restore peace.

VOP: Please pray for those who have been affected by terror in the Central African Republic. And pray attacks and retaliation done by Muslims and Christians will end and they will have peace.

Al-Qaeda Linked Syrian Rebels Attack Christian Village

syria-mapSyrian anti-regime activists say government troops and al-Qaida-linked rebels are fighting over a regime-held Christian village for a second day.

The director of the Britain-based Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdul-Rahman, says the fighters of al-Qaida affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra group entered the Christian village of Maaloula overnight.

Despite heavy army presence in the village in Western Syria, Abdul-Rahman says the rebels patrolled its streets on foot and in vehicles, briefly surrounding a church and a mosque.

He says the rebels left Maaloula early Thursday morning and heavy clashes between President Bashar Assad’s troops and Nusra Front fighters have raged since then in surrounding mountains.

The Observatory has been documenting conflict since it started in March 2011 and has relied on a network of activists on the ground.

Al-Qaida-linked rebels have launched an assault on a regime-held Christian village in the densely populated west of Syria and new clashes erupted near the capital, Damascus _ part of a brutal battle of attrition each side believes it can win despite more than two years of deadlock.

As the world focused on possible U.S. military action against Syria, rebels commandeered a mountaintop hotel in the village of Maaloula and shelled the community below Wednesday, said a nun, speaking by phone from a convent in the village. She spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

The attack came hours before a Senate panel voted to give President Barack Obama authority to use military force against Syria, the first time lawmakers have voted to allow military action since the October 2002 votes authorizing the invasion of Iraq.

The measure, which cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on a 10-7 vote, was altered at the last minute to support “decisive changes to the present military balance of power” in Syria’s civil war, though it ruled out U.S. combat operations on the ground. It was expected to reach the full Senate floor next week.

The Syria conflict, which began with a popular uprising in March 2011, has been stalemated, and it’s not clear if U.S. military strikes over the regime’s alleged chemical weapons use would change that. Obama has said he seeks limited pinpoint action to deter future chemical attacks, not regime change.

Obama has been lobbying for international and domestic support for punishing President Bashar Assad’s regime, which the U.S. says fired rockets loaded with the nerve agent sarin on rebel-held areas near Damascus before dawn on Aug. 21, killing hundreds of civilians.

So far, however, he has won little international backing for action. Among major allies, only France has offered publicly to join the U.S. in a strike.

In a parliament debate, France’s Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault made a passionate appeal for intervention in Syria, placing the blame for the alleged chemical attack on Assad and warning that inaction could let him carry out more atrocities.

The debate ended without a vote since President Francois Hollande can order a military operation without one.

Obama has called chemical weapons use a “red line,” and top administration officials argued before the Senate on Tuesday that Assad would take inaction by Washington as a license for further brutality against his people. The fighting has killed more than 100,000 Syrians and uprooted nearly 7 million from their homes.

During a visit to Sweden on Wednesday, Obama said a red line had been drawn by countries around the world that have backed a long-standing ban on chemical weapons. “I didn’t set a red line, the world set a red line,” he said.

With the Syria debate in Congress in full swing, questions arose around the administration’s assurances. It’s not clear, critics said, how the U.S. could expect to deliver surgical strikes in Syria’s chaotic battlefield or predict the repercussions, including possible Assad regime reprisals against Syria’s neighbors.

The civil war in Syria hit a stalemate almost from the start. The rebels control much of the countryside in the north, east and south, but the regime is hanging on to most urban centers in the west, where the majority of Syrians live.

Within that deadlock, each side has consolidated control over certain areas, said Peter Harling, a Syria expert at the International Crisis Group think tank.

Momentum “is always shifting enough for both sides to be able to convince themselves that victory is ultimately feasible,” he said. “In practice, both sides are stuck and can achieve very little militarily.”

The dawn assault on the predominantly Christian village of Maaloula was carried out by rebels from the al-Qaida-linked Jabhat al-Nusra group, according to a Syrian government official and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-regime group.

At the start of the attack, an al-Nusra fighter blew himself up at a regime checkpoint at the entrance to the village, said the Observatory, which collects information from a network of anti-regime activists.

The suicide attack was followed by fighting between the rebels and regime forces, the Observatory and a nun in the village said. Eventually, the rebels seized the checkpoint, disabled two tanks and an armored personnel carrier and killed eight regime soldiers in fighting, the British-based group said.

The nun said the rebels took over the Safir hotel atop a mountain overlooking the village and fired shells at it from there.

“It’s a war. It has been going from 6 a.m. in the morning,” she said.

Some 80 people from the village took refuge in the convent, which houses 13 nuns and 27 orphans, she said.

A Syrian government official confirmed the assault and said the military was trying to repel the rebels. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give official statements.

Maaloula, a mountain village some 40 miles (60 kilometers) northeast of Damascus, is home to about 2,000 residents, some of whom still speak a version of Aramaic, the ancient language of biblical times believed to have been spoken by Jesus.

Continue reading full article Al-Qaeda Linked Syrian Rebels Attack Christian Village

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