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Caught in the Middle: Mortar Shell Hits Syrian Catholic Church

AFP PHOTO / AMC / ZEIN AL-RIFAI
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Attack occurred during communion, but the only people injured were outside the building

In an increasingly complicated time for the Syrian city of Aleppo, practically no place is completely safe. On Sunday, a mortar shell hit the Latin Catholic Church of St. Francis, in the al-Aziziyah district of the city, during Mass.

Fides news agency reported that the grenade, from areas held by anti-Assad rebels, hit the roof, tearing its dome but not penetrating it. Rather, the exposing injured seven people outside.

“If the grenade had exploded inside, there would have been a massacre,” commented Bishop Georges Abou Khazen, the apostolic vicar of Aleppo. He said that there were about 400 people in the church for the evening Mass and that the incident occurred as people were receiving communion.

The United Nations reports that fighting over Aleppo between government and rebel forces has intensified recently. According to the UN’s Camp Management and Camp Coordination (CCCM) cluster, at least 120,000 people have been displaced in Aleppo, Hama and Idleb governorates from Oct. 5 to 22. On Oct. 23, fighting cut the road from Hama to Aleppo, cutting off supplies and putting at risk an estimated 700,000 people living in government-controlled areas of the city. In addition, attacks on health facilities and health workers continue with a recorded five hospitals hit in Latmaneh (Hama) and Sarmin (Idleb) and Haritayn, Al Hader, and El Eis (Aleppo governorate).

The Telegraph reported that there has been intense fighting around Aleppo:

In its southern countryside, regime troops have made important gains against non-ISIL rebels, backed by Russian jets, Iranian ground troops and Shia militia from the Lebanese Hezbollah movement and several other groups recruited abroad.

Aleppo had a pre-war population of well more than two million. Many of them have already fled, especially from the large Armenian Christian minority.

 

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