WITH MEDIA focused on the Syrian regime, aided by Russian planes, killing some 250 people in a rebel-held suburb of Damascus, rebel attacks on the Syrian capital’s Christian neighborhoods go largely unreported. According to a report by Caritas Internationalis, the situation there is critical, as Christian suburbs have been hit by mortar attacks since late January 2018.
“More than 200 mortar shells have hit Damascus’ eastern neighborhoods, causing more than 28 killed and 90 injured,” Caritas has reported. Attacks are ongoing at this writing. Official figures hold that more than 42 people have been seriously injured and that a dozen people have been killed. The actual numbers may be much higher.
Several of the mortars hit very close to the convent that is home to Sister Annie Demerjian. She told us that she and the other residents of the convent narrowly escaped death when a mortar fell but “thanks be to God did not explode.” Otherwise, she and several of the University students, Sister Annie said, “would have been injured or killed.” Sister Annie, who belongs to the congregation of Jesus and Mary, said: “Yesterday [Feb. 21, 2018] was like hell. It was raining bombs. There were so many people injured.”
Caritas reported on a Feb. 8, 2018 attach during which “some 70 mortar shells hit many neighborhoods in Damascus, leaving more than 30 people injured, 5 killed and causing huge material damages to apartments, shops and cars.”
As Caritas further reported: “People in Damascus are very depressed nowadays. They were optimistic in the last few months, and they felt that they had reached the end of war; but they feel now that they are back to zero. Most of the families who are living in the eastern part of the city stopped sending their children to school after the Jan. 22, 2018 attacks. The main streets and squares that are usually very crowded during the day are now almost empty. All the people are very cautious in their movements.”
The increasing violence is connected to a broad offensive launched by Al-Qaida-linked groups to capture a key military base in the eastern countryside just outside Damascus. This base, known as “The Vehicle Base,” houses large numbers of soldiers, as well as big weapon depots. The civilian population in territory held by both sides suffer from the continuous fighting between armed rebel groups and the Syrian army.
“Please pray for us in Syria, and help us talk loudly about this part of the story, which is neglected, and which is severely affecting our lives and the lives of our loved ones,” the Caritas report concluded.
Father Andrzej Halemba, who oversees our projects in Syria, called for prayers “for the Syrian Christians, who are living through some extremely difficult moments at this time.” He said that hundreds of civilians, many of them Christians, are living in terror night and day on account of the incessant attacks.”