The recent conquest of the Cheikh Maksoud district in Aleppo by anti-Assad militia could determine the fate of the Syrian metropolis that has been battered for months by the fractious civil war.
According to the Fides news service, Catholic priest David Fernandez said "That neighborhood is located on a hill overlooking Aleppo and is a strategic point for those who want to conquer the central area of the city, where there are also government buildings. I am told that already many downtown streets have been closed and noboby can pass through these streets, because from the buildings snipers shoot at everything that moves." Fr. Fernandez is a missionary of the Incarnate Word order of priests.
In Cheikh Maksoud, Christians once represented the majority. In recent years the Kurdish population had become dominant, but many Christian families were still gathered around the Armenian Catholic and the Greek-Orthodox Church.
Father Fernandez confirmed that in the past days more than three hundred Christian families have fled the area captured by the rebels. "At least 120 Christians" saids the missionary, "have found refuge in the house of the Marist Brothers." Among the fugitives, news about murders and rapes of women perpetrated against families who were linked to the army government circulate. "Even I have heard of this," says Father David, "but the information we receive is a lot and sometimes contradictory, and for the moment there is no way of verifying it."
Yesterday, Youtube revealed a fatwa issued by Yasir al-Ajlawni, a Jordanian Salafi sheikh who resides in Damascus. The Muslim cleric declared that it is lawful within the Sunni interpretation of Islam to commit rape of "any Syrian woman not Sunni." According to the disturbing video, capturing and raping Alawi or Christian women is not contrary to the precepts of Islam.
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