Islamists attack Christians, Iraqi refugees in Damascus

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MIDDLE EAST | PERSECUTION

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Islamists attack Christians, Iraqi refugees in Damascus

The Syrian rebels’ attack on Damascus has allowed radical Islamist groups to attack Iraqi refugees, Christians allegedly loyal to the Syrian government and other civilians, reports Catholic News Agency.

Local Christians have expressed dismay and outrage at the attacks on defenseless civilians, a local source told Fides news agency.

The rebel group Liwa al-Islam, a Wahhabi group whose name means “The Brigade of Islam,” has claimed responsibility for killing top generals in President Bashar Assad’s government. On the morning of July 23, its members also killed an entire Christian family in the Damascus neighborhood of Bab Tuma.

Militants blocked the car of Nabil Zoreb, a Christian civil officer. They ordered him, his wife Violet, and his two sons George and Jimmy to get out of the car. The militants then killed them all.

In southeastern Damascus, Islamist fighters with the Muslim Brotherhood ally Jehad al Nosra attacked the homes of Iraqi refugees. They ransacked the homes, burned them and forced the occupants to leave.

The refugees said “gangs of Muslim terrorists attacked and chased us.”

Rebel forces struck the capital of 1.7 million on July 14. The fighting destroyed homes, burned cars and damaged the city’s electrical grid. The government said it had repelled most of the rebels July 23, according to the Associated Press.

The situation in Damascus is deteriorating, with residents facing long lines for gasoline and bread. Thousands have fled into neighboring Lebanon.

There are about 200,000 internally displaced people from Damascus. They have moved from one neighborhood to another city or different suburbs to escape the fighting.

As they wage their battle with government forces, rebel groups have taken positions in neighborhoods and civilian buildings.

Families, elderly women and children of all ethnicities and religions have fled to the predominantly Christian neighborhoods of Jaramana, Qassaa. Young Christians are coordinating refugees and sending them to schools, churches, mosques and public buildings with space to welcome them.

Humanitarian aid is being provided through Caritas Syria, the Middle East Council of Churches, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and the Community of St. Egidio.

Young Christian volunteers are also working on garbage collection, which is becoming a health threat in the intense summer heat.

The interfaith non-violence movement Mussalaha, whose name means “Reconciliation,” has said that both government loyalists and rebels can join its movement on condition that they give up weapons. It advocates for building reconciliation beginning with families, tribes, clans and communities.

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