Extremists seize Christian towns

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By John Newton
EXTREMIST terror group Islamic State has attacked Christian villages in north-east Syria.
The assault took place yesterday (Monday, 23rd February) targeting Assyrian villages in the Khabour region of Syria’s Hassake governorate.
Archimandrite Emanuel Youkhana, who works in support of persecuted Christians in the region, spoke to a contact in Hassake city where around 400 families have fled following the advance of IS.
“Bishop Mar Aprem Athniel… told me the church and community hall are overloaded with the people and they are now [sending] them to the families in Hassake city.”
According to reports, more than 100 villagers have been captured by IS and many others have been trapped in their villages as the soldiers advanced.
At least two villages – Tal Shamiran and Tal Hermiz – were still surrounded by IS yesterday evening.
The churches in both villages have been torched.
Archimandrite Youkhana said: “The fight started Monday early morning, 4am Syrian time, when IS opened a 40km-long battle front from Tel Shamiram to Tel Hormizd.”
“According to the source, IS been defeated in Kobane and other places, [but] it tried to get gains in other places.
“IS took advantage of [the fact that the] PYD (Democratic Union Kurdish Party) [had] been fighting in other places – mainly the Syrian-Iraqi borders.
“So, there was less resistance to face IS fighters. In general, IS was supported by Arab Sunni neighbouring villages.”
But Archimandrite Youkhana also drew attention to acts of solidarity between Sunni Muslims and the attacked Christians.
He said: “Arab Sunni villagers nearby Assyrian village of Qaber Shamiat rescued 15 Assyrians (13 males and two females) who are protected by them and are expected to be guided and transported to Hassake, to the church.
“Most of the Christian Assyrian families of this side of Khabour River managed to flee to Hassake and Qamishli.
“There are no clear numbers of the families, but more than 600 families managed to flee. Most of them are in Hasseke and around 200 in Qamishli.”
Archimandrite Youkhana said that 50 families in Tel Shamiran, 26 families in Tel Gouran, 28 families in Tel Jezira, and 14 young people (12 males and 2 females) who were defending Tel Hormiz had been seized by IS. IS soldiers have separated men from women and children.
He added: “Knowing the brutal barbaric record of IS with the captured, the destiny of those families is a major concern to us.”
“Yesterday, there was a long day fight in Tel Tamar where IS failed to advance.
“By now, with PYD fighters joining the fight from other places, and Syrian army air strikes, it is believed that there will be no IS advance but, on contrary, IS to be defeated in next day(s).”
The Khabour River has provided a natural line of defence for the villages on the other side.
There are 35 Assyrian villages in the Khabour region which were founded in the 1930s.
Archimandrite Emanuel Youkhana said: “May God bring an end to the continuous suffer of the people in our countries and worldwide.”