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Dublin: 7 °C Tuesday 18 February, 2020

Syria latest: Jordan's refugee camp, the Pope's plea and Aleppo assaults

The Pope has appealed for an end to violence as Syria’s army continues its ferocious attacks on the city of Aleppo.

Syrian rebels sit in a pick up truck in Aleppo, Syria yesterday.
Syrian rebels sit in a pick up truck in Aleppo, Syria yesterday.
Image: Alberto Prieto/AP/Press Association Images

SYRIA’S FOREIGN MINISTER has issued another strongly defiant statement, warning rebel fighters that they “will definitely be defeated” in Aleppo.

“We believe that all the anti-Syrian forces have gathered in Aleppo to fight the government… and they will definitely be defeated,” Walid al-Muallem told a news conference in Iran.

The message comes as President Bashar Assad’s security forces, backed by tanks and helicopters, continue to pound the country’s second city and commercial centre. Fighting has entered its second straight day as troops pressed an offensive against rebel-held areas.

Fears have escalated for citizens who may be caught up in the violence while human rights groups are concerned about a possible humanitarian catastrophe.

More massacres planned?

The opposition Syrian National Council has accused the regime of preparing to carry out massacres and has called on the United Nations to prevent any more deaths. According to activists, up to 20,00 people have died since unrest began 17 months ago.

“The Syrian National Council calls on the UN Security Council to hold an emergency session to discuss the situation in Aleppo, Damascus and Homs,” the SNC said, adding that the “regime is preparing to storm and commit massacres in Aleppo”.

Members also warned that Assad’s army could repeat the atrocities seen in Houla, Al-Kubeir and Treimsa, referring to earlier attacks on villages in the central provinces of Homs and Hama.

According to BBC News, the SNC has also asked foreign states for weapons for its fighters.

“We want weapons that would stop tanks and jet fighters. That is what we want,” Abdulbaset Sayda said at a news conference in Abu Dhabi before urging ‘Arab brothers’ to support the Free Syrian Army.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has claimed that 29 people were killed in Aleppo yesterday, while another 139 died across the country. Death tolls and other information cannot be independently verified as foreign journalists are severely restricted within Syria.

Jordan opens its doors

As the situation for residents worsens, neighbouring country Jordan has opened its first official refugee camp to host the tens of thousands of Syrians who have fled their homes.

“I hope the ordeal of our Syrian brothers will vanish,” Interior Minister Ghaleb Zubi told reporters as he and Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh opened the Zaatari camp, which can take up to 120,000 refugees, in Mafraq near the border with Syria.

Between one thousand and two thousand Syrians are entering Jordan every day. The administration says that it is doing its utmost to provide safety and security to the refugees. Judeh said Jordan is now hosting more than 142,000 Syrians, around 36,000 of whom are UN-registered. Many more are living with relatives.

Pope’s appeal

Outside of the area, Pope Benedict XVI has issued an urgent appeal for an end to the bloodshed. He called on the international community to ‘spare no effort’ in helping resolve the ongoing conflict.

In his weekly angelus prayers, he said his thoughts were with the refugees and displaced citizens.

-Additional reporting by AP and AFP

Yesterday: Syria army launches Aleppo assault>

Related: Six-year-old boy shot dead by Syrian troops>

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