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Columns of smoke billow as a result of heavy bombing in the countryside outside of Aleppo on July 2.
Associated Press/Shaam News Network via AP video
Columns of smoke billow as a result of heavy bombing in the countryside outside of Aleppo on July 2.

A letter from Aleppo

Syria | A firsthand account from inside Syria’s humanitarian disaster

Below is a letter out of Aleppo, Syria, that was written in late July by a physician. A lifelong Aleppo resident of Armenian heritage, this man has remained in one of the ancient city’s Christian neighborhoods throughout a 14-month siege by rebel forces. He is a trusted source to WORLD, not named for security reasons, with a long history of medical aid work throughout the Middle East and Asia. This letter is reprinted with permission of Barnabas Aid, which first published it.

Since he wrote, the rebel blockade of Aleppo has now entered its third month. Water, electricity, and communication are cut off, infrastructure has collapsed, and residents cannot leave, nor can aid be brought in. For Aleppo residents, all necessities of life are in short supply and prices have soared. A bag of lentils that only a year ago cost 50 Syrian pounds, or about $1, now may cost anywhere from $5 to $10. Because of shortages and the exorbitant cost, churches—one in Aleppo was providing meals for 35,000 displaced Syrians only a few months ago—have been forced to halt help for the needy.

Aleppo—Syria’s largest city, with more than 2 million people in the country’s industrial and agricultural heartland—has a historically diverse religious and ethnic makeup. The rebels’ success at taking over much of the city suggests they stand a chance at toppling the government of Bashar al-Assad. But the humanitarian crisis they have created will make anyone wonder what kind of government the opposition forces might deliver were they to successfully replace Assad. The blockade, meanwhile, has gone uncontested by the United States and its allies, making many Syrians doubt the U.S. move toward military strikes is designed to relieve their humanitarian crisis, or address the many atrocities of this war. —Mindy Belz

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Our situation in these hectic, unpredictable days in Aleppo, with no food or meat or bread at ease, no free movement, no security and no encouraging good news on the horizon, reminds me of the words of Habakkuk:

“Though the fig-tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, YET I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in GOD my Saviour” (Habakkuk 3:17-18).

Many sounds heard and continuing to be heard!! Are you still there? How come you don’t move out? What about your family? How they can do without you? Many questions such [as] these and no one can find the proper convincing answers to them.

Is it right to say, “Gone with the wind!” Of course not. My hope and trust is in the Lord who is my light and my salvation, who is the stronghold of my life (Psalm 27:1).

Where are we heading after two and a half years since the beginning of the war in Syria in mid-March 2011? And now it is more than one year since the beginning of the war in Aleppo in late June 2012. Everyone among our friends abroad may be wondering.

At the national level, nothing has changed since then apart from more suffering and more losses of souls and belongings. The two sides of the war continue to confront each other with no clear winner or loser at a cost of: more than 100,000 killed, more than a million and half refugees in the neighbouring countries, and more than 3.8 million internally displaced people (IDPs). Hundreds of thousands have migrated to Europe and the Americas.

The economy is in ruins and no one can predict how long it will remain like this. Sectarianism and extremism are flourishing and there is no glimmer of hope for a settlement to such mounting conflict. Following the retaking of al-Qusayr (a strategic region in the centre of Syria, southwest of Homs and near the border with Lebanon) by the Syrian army and the defeat of the rebels there, the leaders of the Western world declared that the fall of al-Qusayr showed that the balance of power had shifted to the government side and that it was necessary for them to arm the rebels in order to re-establish equilibrium! What a way of thinking!! They simply want to re-establish equilibrium so that both sides will continue to fight … to the last Syrian? Just imagine the satanic way of thinking! “But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Saviour; my God will hear me. Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise (with my nation). Though I (we) sit in darkness (since no electricity), the Lord will be my (our) light” (Micah 7:7-8; italics are mine).

© 2013 Barnabas Aid. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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