12 October 2016, The Tablet

Pope calls for ceasefire to protect 'victims of the inhumane conflict in Syria'

The Pope was speaking at his weekly general audience in St Peter’s Square

In the wake of intensified attacks in Syria, Pope Francis has called for an immediate ceasefire.

Speaking today at his weekly general audience in St Peter’s Square, the Pope said that his thoughts and prayers were with "all victims of the inhumane conflict in Syria".

He asked for the ceasefire to be "implemented and respected at least for the time needed to allow for the evacuation of civilians, most of all children, who are still trapped under fierce bombings".

The Pope’s appeal comes after a wave of intense violence as Russian airstrikes, supported by the Syrian government, hit Aleppo, and rockets launched by rebels rained on Dara in the South.

At least six people were killed in the South and 25 people reportedly killed in Aleppo on 11 October, although the number of casualties may rise as rescuers continue to comb through the rubble.

In a statement, Caritas Internationalis, the umbrella organisation for Catholic charities around the world, said more than 275,000 people "face intensified daily bombardment in eastern Aleppo; 100,000 of the people trapped in the rebel-controlled area are children. They are facing a humanitarian catastrophe."

"The indiscriminate brutality witnessed in Aleppo must end. The people of Aleppo need an immediate ceasefire," said Michel Roy, secretary general of Caritas Internationalis.

The increase in violence continued to keep humanitarian efforts from reaching people in need, Krista Armstrong, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, told the Los Angeles Times yesterday.

"The needs are rising, but we need to see a cessation of violence in order to get to these areas," Armstrong said, adding that the Red Cross has not been able to reach east Aleppo since April.

Since a ceasefire collapsed in September, air raids by Syrian and Russian forces have increased, besieging the people of Aleppo, said Carlos Francisco, head of mission at Doctors Without Borders.

"First the surrounding areas were hit, then the roads leading into the city, then hospitals, water supplies, residential neighbourhoods, rescuers' equipment. We are talking about a city exhausted by five years of war, which has received no aid since July, when the siege began - a city that is being devastated, flattened, in front of our eyes," Francisco said.

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