A jihadist in the Armenian church of Kassab village, near Syria’s border with Turkey.
Jihadist rebel factions launched an offensive against the village of Kassab on Saturday, leading Christian Armenian and Alawite residents to flee. Today, Kassab is empty. Most of its inhabitants have taken refuge in Latakia, a regime stronghold.
Kassab, located in northwestern Syria at the border with Turkey, was the only Armenian village in the region. Local Christian Armenian families settled in the region in 1915 to escape genocide on the part of the Ottoman empire. The village was also home to an Alawite minority.
A rebel commander that participated in the fighting told FRANCE 24 that the residents “started packing their bags after hearing the first gunshots” at dawn on Saturday, March 22, the first day of the offensive. He added that “the Armenian population is not targeted and their possessions will be safeguarded”. Pro-opposition channels have shared videos on social media that show rebel fighters helping residents leave the village.
Abdallah Mhesne is a Saudi preacher that travels with rebel factions in the Syrian north, and who is currently posted in the outskirts of Kassab. He describes on his Twitter account (see below) how he “entered a Christian home [in Kassab] with the brothers. They did not touch anything … but the crosses, wine bottles, and pig meat were destroyed”.