CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 13 October 2018

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Civilians in Idlib fear offensive by Syrian forces

AMMAN (CNS): Christians and other civilians inside Idlib, Syria, are fearful of an impending, all-out offensive by their government and its Russian and Iranian backers on the last rebel stronghold in a presumed endgame in Syria’s more than seven-year-old war. 
 
“A Franciscan father told us that the situation in Idlib is really bad, the people are very scared. They don’t know what will happen and it’s unclear what is actually taking place,” Andrea Avveduto, communications chief for Pro Terra Sancta, said on September 17. The association, based in Jerusalem and Milan, supports the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. 
 
Russia and Turkey agreed on September 17 to create a demilitarised buffer zone in Idlib province to separate government forces from rebel fighters based there. 
 
It is unclear whether the zone, expected to come into force by October 15, would help avert an all-out assault on the rebel-held area, as Syrian president, Bashar Assad, has vowed to regain the region. 
 
Pope Francis, Donald Trump, the president of the United States, and the United Nations have all warned of a “humanitarian catastrophe” unfolding should Syria, Russia and Iran go forward with an attack on Idlib.
 
Jan Egeland, who heads the United Nations humanitarian task force for Syria, has likened the anticipated assault to conducting a “war in a refugee camp.”

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