Church slams Syrian rebels for shelling Christians on Orthodox Easter

The head of the main Orthodox Christian church in Syria condemned rebel factions that shelled government-held areas of Aleppo on Sunday, when its adherents were celebrating Easter.

"Christians in Aleppo were deprived of the joy and the festivities of this joyful occasion and were targeted by the terrorist groups with missiles and shells that resulted in dozens of martyrs or wounded people," said a statement from Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II.

The head of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church also called on world leaders to "intensify their efforts to bring peace back to this region."

Orthodox Christians mark Easter, a holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, on a different date than western Christians due to the use of a different calendar.

Rebel shelling on the government-controlled Sulaimaniya district of Aleppo, a largely Christian area, was also documented on social media by activists. Some photos showed heavy destruction, and there were reports of casualties.

At least 244 civilians have been killed in Aleppo since April 22, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, as rebels and the government had again begun to battle over the city.

Aleppo, the country's main economic hub before the war, is now divided between the government-held west and the rebel-controlled east.

The United States is currently trying to get Russia to pressure the Syrian government, its ally, to agree to renew a truce in the city. Washington and Moscow had brokered a national ceasefire in February that now seems to be faltering.

Christians make up about 10 per cent of the Syrian population. The country's largest Christian denomination is the Orthodox Church. Many minority groups in the country are backers of the government, in part over concerns about Sunni Muslim extremists in the rebel ranks.

Last update: Mon, 02/05/2016 - 18:51

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