By BosNewsLife Middle East Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
DAMASCUS/BEIRUT (BosNewsLife)– Thousands of Christians remained trapped in a besieged village in Syria late Friday, August 24, without food and regular electricity, a local leader and Catholic aid workers told BosNewsLife.
Netherlands-based Christian aid group ‘Kerk in Nood’, or ‘Church in Need’, told BosNewsLife that at least 12,000 villagers are cut-off from the outside world because “all roads and bridges [leading to the village]” have been blown up by fighters.
It did not mention the exact name of the village, apparently amid security fears, but said it was close to the Lebanese border. The group said the village was in the crossfire between rebels seeking to oust President Bashar Assad and forces supporting him.
“There is no food, no electricity, no [regular] telephone connection, nothing. They only thing what they have left is their faith,” Church in Need added.
Christians driving motorcycles, who tried to smuggle bread into the village, were attacked by snipers. “Thankfully nobody was killed,” the group said. It was not clear whether rebels of the Free Syrian Army or Assad’s security forces were involved in the attack.
‘SHARING TO SURVIVE’
Church in Need explained that its Catholic partner Caritas Lebanon has distributed an emergency appeal from a desperate local village priest who reportedly said via his mobile phone: “We share what we have left to survive.”
Yet, the few Christian family members who managed to escape reportedly said that “some start to suffer of hunger. There is no milk for children, or even canned food, or nappies. We need all the help that we can get.”
Church in Need said its Middle East expert, priest Andrew Halemba, was able to pledge in Lebanon some 50,000 euro ($61,000) in emergency aid. It was unclear when and how that would be able to reach the besieged village.
The group stressed the funds, still raised among supporters, “will be used for bread, sugar, rice, milk powder, medicines, baby-milk, vitamins, food, nannies and other hygienic products.”
It came as Syrian troops reportedly forced rebels on Friday, August 24, to abandon a battered suburb of the capital Damascus, in what residents now describe as an intensifying civil war that the U.N. refugee agency says has prompted over 200,000 people to flee Middle East nation.
“There are lots of bodies trapped in destroyed buildings and civilians are trying to flee towards Damascus,” an activist in Daraya, who gave his name as Abu Kinan, told Reuters news agency by phone.
“The rebels have mostly slipped away. The fear now is that the army will round up young men and summarily execute them, like it did in Mouadamiya,” he said, referring to a nearby suburb where residents said troops killed at least 40 people in cold blood this week after storming in to hunt down rebels
On Friday, some 90 people were killed in fighting across the country. In total some 25,000 people are believed to have died since the uprising against President Assad’s regime was launched 17 months ago.
Christians have been in the crossfire, with both rebels and Assad troops forcing them to choose sides in this mainly Islamic country, Christians said.