The conquest of the Cheikh Maksoud district in Aleppo, by the anti-Assad militia, could mark a turning point in the battle for the city, a priest has reported.
Father David Fernandez, a missionary of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, said the neighbourhood is located in a very strategic position on a hill overlooking central Aleppo where there are many government buildings.
Fr David said many downtown streets have been closed and noboby can pass through them, because snipers hidden in the buildings are shooting at everything that moves.
"In Cheikh Maksoud, Christians once represented the majority. In recent years the Kurdish population had become dominant, but many Christian families were still gathered around the Armenian Catholic and the Greek-Orthodox Church." Fr David said. Lately, he added, more than three hundred Christian families have fled the area captured by the rebels. "At least 120 Christians have found refuge in the house of the Marist Brothers."
Among the fugitives, there are many stories circulating about murders and the rapes of women from families linked to the army or government circulate.
Fr David said: "Yesterday, Yasir al-Ajlawni - a Jordanian Salafi sheikh, resident in Damascus, released a fatwa on Youtube, declaring that it is lawful for opponents of the regime of Bashar al-Assad to rape "any Syrian woman not Sunni. According to the sheikh, capturing and raping Alawi or Christian women is not contrary to the precepts of Islam."