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SYRIA

Missing Italian priest in Syria ‘may be alive’

Father Paolo Dall'Oglio, an Italian priest who has lived in Syria for more than 30 years, may still be alive despite his death being announced last week.

Missing Italian priest in Syria 'may be alive'
Paolo Dall'Oglio has not been heard from since July. Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said on Monday that Dall'Oglio may not have been killed, based on sources close to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) group, Reuters reported.

On Wednesday the Observatory announced that the priest had been killed while in custody of the ISIS, a group with links to al-Qaeda.

The Italian foreign ministry was unavailable for comment when contacted by The Local; earlier this month Minister Emma Bonino said she remained hopeful that Dall'Oglio would be found alive.

Fears over the priest's safety were first raised on July 29th, with opinion divided over whether he had been taken hostage by the ISIS or had willingly gone to meet the group to negotiate the release of hostages.

He was last reported to be in the rebel-held city of Raqqa.

Just days after Dall'Oglio disappeared, Pope Francis voiced his concern for the fate of the fellow Jesuit. 

The priest is a fierce critic of the Syrian government's violent response to a popular uprising which begun in 2011 and has since descended into civil war, claiming more than 100,000 lives.

He was thrown out of the country by President Bashar al-Assad in June 2012, although is thought to have re-entered the country last month via the Turkish border.

Dall'Oglio has been praised internationally for leading the Deir Mar Musa monastery close to the capital Damascus and fostering dialogue between Christians and Muslims.

Read more about Father Paolo, our Italian of the week earlier this month. 

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FILM

Syrian war documentary wins top Venice prizes

A film that follows two friends through four nightmarish years of the Syrian civil war has lifted some of the top prizes at the Venice film festival, which ends Saturday.

Syrian war documentary wins top Venice prizes
The Venice film festival ends on Saturday. Photo: Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP
“Still Recording”, a documentary by Ghiath Ayoub and Saeed Al Batal, records what happened to two idealistic art students after they were swept up in the fervour of the Syrian revolution. It picked up two awards at Venice Critics' Week.
 
Friends Saeed and Milad leave Damascus and go to Douma in 2011, a suburb under rebel control, to set up a radio station and recording studio. There they struggle to keep a flicker of hope and creativity alive as they endure fighting, siege and famine.
 
Ayoub and Al Batal, who shot 500 hours of footage, told AFP that with so little reporting coming out of Syria it was important to bear witness.
 
“We started doing this because there wasn't, and still isn't, an efficient working media in Syria because it's not allowed to enter and if it is, it's under the control of the regime,” said Al Batal.
 
“Art is nothing if it is not resistance, even if there isn't revolution… it is resistance against a huge amount of emotions you have got inside you. Emotions need to come out and expressing them through art can do that.”
 
The win comes as the Syrian regime and its Russian allies are preparing to launch an assault on Idlib, the northern province that is the last major stronghold of the rebel and jihadist groups which have been trying to overthrow Bashar al-Assad for the past seven years.
 
Al Batal said the situation in Syria “is more dangerous than ever now” because the Russian military are more ruthless than Assad's badly trained soldiers.
 
“They know where to hit, and how to hit hard,” said Al Batal, who said the “media army behind them” was the same.