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Yad Vashem head condemns ‘atrocities’ in Syria

Avner Shalev expresses ‘deep concern over the appalling images of massacres,’ in rare statement from Holocaust memorial

Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev seen during a press conference in preparation for Pope Francis' visit to Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, May 22, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev seen during a press conference in preparation for Pope Francis' visit to Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, May 22, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The head of Israel’s official Holocaust memorial museum called Sunday for the world to put an end to the mass killings in Syria.

Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev’s comments marked a rare venture into contemporary affairs for a body devoted to commemorating the World War II genocide of 6 million Jews. Speaking at an academic conference devoted to the plight of Jewish refugees in the Holocaust, Shalev expressed “deep concern over the appalling images of massacres of human beings” in Syria.

He noted how after World War II world leaders enacted universal principles and instituted organizations aimed at preventing future crimes against humanity. Shalev said that “the global community must put a stop to these atrocities and avert further suffering as well as provide humanitarian assistance to victims seeking safe haven.”

Since fighting began in 2011, the conflict in Syria has drawn numerous comparisons to the Holocaust in Israel and across the world, in terms of both the scale of the slaughter and the large waves of refugees fleeing the war-torn country.

A Syrian man walks towards the walls of the old market in the government-held old city of Aleppo on December 17, 2016. (AFP PHOTO/STRINGER)
A Syrian man walks towards the walls of the old market in the government-held old city of Aleppo on December 17, 2016. (AFP)

Last week, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri condemned the “massacre” of innocent civilians in Syria, saying “six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust and the world was silent. As Jews, we cannot ignore these atrocities that have been taking place for nearly six years in Syria.”

On Thursday, Israeli newscaster Lucy Aharish gave an impassioned speech on television in which she denounced the Syrian regime’s bombing of Aleppo, describing it as a “Holocaust” while noting that despite living in an ever more connected world “we are standing and doing nothing while children are being slaughtered every single hour.”

Aside from providing some medical aid to rebel forces near its northern border, and striking President Bashar Assad’s forces several times in order to prevent his ally Hezbollah from gaining possession of advanced weapons, Israel has largely refrained from intervening in the fighting, and has declined to take in refugees.

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