Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Syria accused in 'ethnic cleansing' of Sunni Muslims

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 18th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The Lebanese caretaker minister for social affairs, Wael Abu Faour has declared that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces have begun ethnically cleansing Sunni Muslims and deliberately pushing refugees across the border into Lebanon. Abu Faour told journalists that during the 27-month-old conflict, Syrian forces committed what was "tantamount to ethnic cleansing next to the Syrian-Lebanese border."

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - President Assad is battling a Sunni-led revolt in Syria, which his family has ruled for four decades. He belongs to the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

"(Assad) is trying to displace all the Sunnis to Lebanon and this is why I expect to have more displaced people," Abu Faour said.

The revolt turned into a civil war after a crackdown on anti-Assad protesters. Shi'ite Iran and Lebanon's Shi'ite Hezbollah militants back Assad, while Sunni powers, such as Saudi Arabia, support the rebels. The war has sharpened sectarian rifts in Lebanon.

The United Nations says 93,000 people have been killed in Syria and 1.6 million Syrians have fled abroad. Lebanon, the smallest of Syria's neighbors with four million people, has taken in more than half a million Syrian refugees.

"What began was a wave of people fleeing from violence to Lebanon, but what is happening now is a completely different matter. What is happening now is organized displacement of the Syrian people - organized based on sectarian and political motives," Abu Faour says.

Making his comments after meeting with U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, who says that refugees in Lebanon and their local hosts need support from world powers.

"My very strong appeal is for massive support not only to refugees, not only to local communities but to Lebanon itself in order to be able to respond to this challenge," Guterres said.

The United Nations has asked for some $5 billion in humanitarian aid for Syrians and for Syria's neighbors before the end of the year, its biggest emergency appeal to date.

Foreign donors are unwilling to give money to Lebanon's sectarian-based government as it is seen as deeply divided over Syria's war. Lebanon has also been found to be dysfunctional on domestic issues. Some ministers, such as Abu Faour, have been fiercely critical of Assad, while others strongly support him.

"Lebanon needs to formulate a mechanism to create confidence and trust in the government so that donors can increase their funding," the Swedish ambassador to Beirut, Niklas Kebbon says.

Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)