UN officials, Church leaders decry escalating situation in Syria

  • Written by:

As Syria’s war soon enters its eighth year, many decry the recent dangerous escalation in the conflict, whether in the country’s north, between Turkey and the Kurds, or in the south, between Iran and Israel.
Speaking from the sprawling Zaatari Refugee Camp housing 80,000 Syrians near Jordan’s border with Syria, the head of the UN refugee agency condemned the recent Israeli-Iranian confrontation over Syria, which threatens to open a new and unpredictable front in the war.

The “escalation in the last few days of war in Syria is of extreme concern,” Filippo Grandi told reporters during his 12th February visit.

“We are witnessing an extended failure of political action by states to find a solution to this war” and “an increasing internationalisation of the conflict,” Grandi said. “This is extremely worrying” because it “makes a solution more difficult.”

Israel carried out a series of airstrikes in Syria on 10th February, hitting Syrian as well as Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah military targets after it said an Iranian reconnaissance drone had entered its airspace. Israel also lost one of its aircraft during these attacks.

Pope Francis has named the conflict in Syria the worst humanitarian disaster after World War II. He said that on 23rd February, the day of prayer and fasting for peace, he would “make special mention of Syria, afflicted in recent years by unspeakable suffering.”

Israel and Syria have remained officially in a state of war for decades. The relations are further strained as three of Israel’s enemies operate in the Syrian theater: the government itself, Hezbollah and Iran.

Meanwhile, the Conference of European Justice and Peace Commissions called for an immediate end to the Turkish invasion of Syria’s northwestern town of Afrin, “one of the last undamaged regions in the country.” The network of 31 national Catholic justice and peace commissions said it supports demands by Afrin’s citizens for an “immediate cease-fire and establishment of a no-fly zone as well as humanitarian corridors for medicines and relief supplies.” It also urged the European Union and its member states to demand a “negotiated solution from Turkey and international observers to access the area.”

Thousands of internally displaced Syrians have sought shelter in Afrin from other war-ravaged areas. Many civilian causalities have been reported since Turkish military forces, with the support of radical Islamist groups, invaded on 20th January. Afrin, located in a Kurdish-controlled area, is about 30 miles from Aleppo.

Other Christians have condemned Turkey’s military operations against the Kurds and Christians of Afrin.

Fr Emanuel Youkhana, an archimandrite of the Assyrian Church of the East, has urged an immediate end to the military operations and immediate aid to the people, telling CNS that “the civilians cannot be attacked under any claim.”

“Attacking (those) who fought Daesh is shocking and questionable action,” he said. “We pray for decision-makers to work for peace. Battle cannot be a path to peace.”

Picture: A Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army fighter holds his weapon on 12th February in the town of Tadef, Syria. (CNS photo/Khalil Ashawi, Reuters).

UN officials, Church leaders decry escalating situation in Syria