-- ZENIT.org News Agency
Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo: City Living in Hope and Fear
Possible Offensive by Government Forces Comes As Citizens Suffer Shortages
DAMASCUS, July 09, 2014 (Zenit.org) - The Chaldean bishop of Syria's second largest city Aleppo says residents are living with a mixture of hope and fear as government forces look poised to recapture rebel-held areas.
Bishop Antoine Audo SJ, told Fides News Agency July 8 that in recent days, fewer rocket attacks could point to an offensive by the Syrian army.
"This may suggest the calm before the storm," he said. "Everyone says that, when it happens, the battle in Aleppo will be the 'final battle'. But we do not know yet what it will mean for us all. There is widespread expectation of a release, there is the hope of being freed from the war of position which has divided the city for almost two years. But there is also the fear that all areas are appalled by the bombing, or reprisals carried out by the rebels. Or even the fear of ending up like in Mosul.
"Everyone senses, albeit vaguely, that what is happening here is not a local issue, but it is conditioned by regional and global power clashes," he said.
Bishop Audo's comments come amid growing rumors that in the areas of Aleppo under government control, elite military teams seem to have already arrived, accompanied by Hezbollah militiamen, the Lebanese Shiite party.
He said Aleppo's population are suffering from many basic needs. "Even now there is no water. We have reopened the wells in churches and mosques to help the population. We continue to carry out assistance programs with volunteers of Caritas. People are exhausted. And we do what we can do".
Since July 2012 Aleppo has been divided between the western sectors, controlled by the government army, and the areas of the eastern part, in the hands of the rebels.
In recent days, the regime media reported that Assad's army has regained control of the industrial area in the north of the city.
In the face of the new advance of government troops, some spokesmen of the rebel factions have accused the regime in Damascus and the jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to be allies, and aim at dividing the territories released from the control of other anti-Assad forces.
ISIL fighters have taken over large portions of the territory in Syria and Iraq, where they have proclaimed the restoration of the Islamic Caliphate.
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