Aleppo Has Become A 'Living Hell' Warns Christian Leader In Syria

A man carries a child after an airstrike in Aleppo on 4 OctoberReuters

Aleppo has become a "living hell" according to one of the most senior Christian leaders still in the besieged city in Syria.

Mgr Georges Abou Khazen, Apostolic Vicar of Aleppo, called for an instant ceasefire.

Speaking in the wake of the deaths of yet more children this week and last week in the relentless airstrikes, Khazen said: "Aleppo is now a living hell - a hell that touches everyone, east and west, full of death and destruction, refugees and lack of electricity and water, families who touch pain with their hands on a daily basis". 

He said world powers must take responsibility and make "the logic of peace" a priority.

The latest deaths came in an airstrike which devastated a school in the predominantly Christian district of al-Sulaymaniyah. According to the Syrian state news agency SANA, the school was targeted in a "terrorist" attack, the term the regime uses for rebels.

Air strikes targeting rebel-held districts of Aleppo also intensified after a lull of several days which the Syrian army said was designed to allow civilians to leave.

Mgr Georges Abou Khazen, Apostolic Vicar of Aleppo's CatholicsYouTube

Khazen told Asia News: "We do not want all these deaths, this destruction. Everyone here is suffering. Families in both east and west continue to count and mourn their dead."

He explained that Aleppo was divided between the western section, controlled by the government and with more than one million residents, the eastern section, controlled by rebels, with 250,000 residents. Al-Sulaymaniyah is in the western section of the city. Khazen is concerned that reports coming out of Syria are too focused on the government airstrikes against the rebels, when there is also death and devastation being cause by rebels attacking government-held areas such as al-Sulaymaniyah.

Pope Francis, who appointed Khazen in 2013, has also called for a truce in the fighting "for the time necessary to evacuate the civilians, especially children, who are still trapped by the cruel bombings."

Khazen said: "It's always the same old story, with regional and international powers not working for peace. The pope's words are very important because they make us feel his closeness but unfortunately these appeals fall on deaf ears.

"The players are not interested in what is happening to people even though now more than ever a truce is needed to alleviate the suffering and bring some aid and comfort."

He said a truce would be a first step on the path to peace. 

The alternative to peace is a war that could go global, he warned.

Children play in water amid devastation from an Aleppo airstrike on 30 SeptemberReuters