Published: 10:00 GMT Daylight Time - Thursday 30 August 2012
Christians blockaded in Syrian town for two weeks by rebel fighters
Country/Region: Middle East and North Africa, Syria
Around 12,000 people were blockaded in a predominantly Christian town in Syria for two weeks by anti-government forces, who shot down people trying to leave and refused entry to food and medical supplies.
Snipers prevented anyone from leaving the southern town of Rableh, shooting dead three men who attempted to get out: George Azar (20), an un-named 21-year-old, and married father of four Elias Tahch Semaan (35).
Residents suffered a shortage of food and medical supplies as access to the town was blocked off; bridges had been blown up and roads rendered impassable. Motorcyclists who attempted to bring bread in to Rableh were also shot at, but they managed to escape unhurt. The electricity supply was disrupted.
Government forces reportedly drove out the opposition fighters on Friday (24 August).
Rableh is west of Qusayr, a city where Christians were reportedly given an ultimatum to leave by 8 June.
The nearby city of Homs has been almost entirely cleared of its 50,000-60,000 Christian population.
And the predominantly Christian part of Aleppo was hit by heavy fighting earlier this month.
Christian areas are particularly vulnerable to attack by anti-government forces because the community is seen as being pro-Assad, having enjoyed considerable rights and freedoms under his rule.
As the fight for Syria rages on, Christians are increasingly concerned about what the future may hold for them in a country that, if Assad is ousted, is likely to be extremely hostile to their presence.
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