Syrian Christians in 2-week blockade by rebel fighters, residents desperate

Aug 25, 2012

An estimated 12,000 people have spent two weeks blockaded in the Christian town of Rableh, Syria, near Homs in the south. Experiencing a shortage of food and medical supplies, residents could not leave as rebel snipers were shooting at them.

The town, close to the border with Lebanon, was liberated by Syrian government forces on Friday, according to Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen satellite channel. These reports are yet to be verified. Sixty militants were reportedly eliminated.

For about two weeks Syrian rebels maintained blockade of the mostly-Christian town, refusing entry to food and medical supplies, according to the Aid to the Church in Need Catholic charity, which tried to deliver supplies to the city. 

We have organized ourselves so we can stand by each other and we are sharing everything so we can survive. We need all the help we can get. Please help us,” a local priest told the Caritas, a Lebanon-based Catholic humanitarian organization, during a phone call from Rableh. 

After a two-week blockade the basic necessities were reportedly running out in the town because the bridges around the settlement had been blown up and roads were made impassable. 

Snipers were waiting for those who thought about leaving the town in search for food. Those who dared to leave in search for food were shot at. Three men who made attempts to leave the disaster zone were shot dead, informed the charity’s representative Father Waldemar Cislo from Beirut.

There were motorcyclists who made an attempt to carry bread into the village, but they were also shot at, though managing to escape the firing line unhurt.

Electric power supply has also been disrupted in the area as the conflict between the Bashar Assad government’s forces and the rebel militants intensified.

Those Syrians who finally made it to the other side of the border described the situation back home as critical. 

Some people are starting to feel the hunger, children’s milk is running out, [there are] no canned goods, even children’s diapers no longer exist,” they said.

Both Syrian and Lebanon Catholic authorities have also been calling for urgent help to the people in Rableh.

Aid to the Church in Need, previously active in Damascus, Aleppo and Homs (Syria), and Caritas (Lebanon) had formed a small – about 800 kilograms – emergency aid delivery consisting mostly of food, medicine and milk powder, hoping to get it to the town if militants agreed to let it pass, but troops made it to the scene first.

Electric power supply to Rableh has already been restored, reports Al-Mayadeen satellite channel.

According to the UN estimates the total number of Syrian refugees has already exceeded 200,000 as the fighting continues between the government and rebel forces.

The government of President Bashar al-Assad said the country’s capital has been freed from the militants and the mop-up operation in the financial hub of Aleppo is getting close to the end. 

Syria’s neighbors report of a refugee exodus from the country. 

Turkey has claimed 3,500 refugees crossed the Turkish-Syrian border in the last 24 hours alone. According to Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate official, Ankara has received 78,000 Syrian refugees on its territory.

Another Syrian neighbor, Jordan, reports a record 2,200 people coming from Syria overnight to find refuge in the Zaatari camp in the north of the country, informed the spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, Adrian Edwards.

As of now, there are no independent sources of information to deny or confirm the Syrian refugee statistics.

Still, many Syrian civilians deny the very idea of fleeing abroad.

"If you go as a refugee you won't get any respect," a 20-year-old student in Bustan al-Qasr settlement, not far from the frontline, told Reuters. “For most people here, self-respect is the most important thing,” he explained.

The UN estimates the death toll of the 17-month conflict in Syria exceeds 18,000 victims from both sides.

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