Pope Francis has launched a last-ditch appeal to Bashar al-Assad, urging the Syrian president to respect international humanitarian law and to protect the rights of civilians in the country’s bloody civil war.
Francis’s message was contained in a letter delivered directly to Assad on Monday by Cardinal Mario Zenari, the Vatican’s top diplomat in Syria.
Forces loyal to the Assad regime are moving closer to taking the remaining rebel-held areas of Aleppo after intense artillery shelling and airstrikes that have killed or displaced thousands. Hundreds of thousands of people in east Aleppo have been living with dwindling food supplies, a lack of fuel, water and electricity and no access to hospitals.
The Vatican said the letter contained an appeal to the president and the international community to end the violence and condemned “all forms of extremism and terrorism from whatever quarter they may come”.
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