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Rescue civilians in Syria, pope pleads

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Rescue civilians in Syria, pope pleads

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In the wake of intensified attacks
in Syria, Pope Francis called for an immediate cease-fire — even if temporary
— so that civilians, especially children, could be rescued from the ruins.

Emphasizing that his thoughts and prayers are with
“all victims of the inhumane conflict in Syria,” the pope said it was
with “a sense of urgency that I renew my appeal, imploring — with all my
strength — those responsible so that an immediate cease-fire be

He asked the cease-fire be “implemented and
respected at least for the time needed to allow for the evacuation of
civilians, most of all children, who are still trapped under fierce

The pope made his appeal Oct. 12 at the end of his weekly
general audience in St. Peter’s Square. It came after a wave of intense
violence as Russian airstrikes, supported by the Syrian government, hit Aleppo
and rockets launched by rebels rained on Dara in the South.

At least six people were killed in the South and 25
people reportedly killed in Aleppo Oct. 11, although the number of casualties
may rise as rescuers continue to comb through the rubble.

In a statement Oct. 11, Caritas Internationalis, the
umbrella organization for Catholic charities around the world, said more than
275,000 people “face intensified daily bombardment in eastern Aleppo;
100,000 of the people trapped in the rebel-controlled area are children. They
are facing a humanitarian catastrophe.”

“The indiscriminate brutality witnessed in Aleppo
must end. The people of Aleppo need an immediate cease-fire,” said Michel Roy,
secretary general of Caritas Internationalis.

The increase in violence continued to keep humanitarian
efforts from reaching people in need, Krista Armstrong, a spokeswoman for the
International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, told the Los Angeles Times
Oct. 11.

“The needs are rising, but we need to see a cessation
of violence in order to get to these areas,” Armstrong told the paper,
adding that the Red Cross has not been able to reach east Aleppo since April.

Since a cease-fire collapsed in September, air raids by
Syrian and Russian forces have increased, besieging the people of Aleppo, said
Carlos Francisco, head of mission of Doctors Without Borders, Oct. 10.

“First the surrounding areas were hit, then the roads
leading into the city, then hospitals, water supplies, residential
neighborhoods, rescuers’ equipment. We are talking about a city exhausted by
five years of war, which has received no aid since July, when the siege began
— a city that is being devastated, flattened, in front of our eyes,”
Francisco said.


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