Kessab City is Liberated —All Churches Destroyed by Islamists

Last week we had published a report that 250 Armenian families returned to Kessab after the Syrian Army took over the city on the 14th and 15th of June, and regained control of Kessab.

The city, inhabited by Armenians, is in the northwestern of Syria, less than three kilometers from the Turkish border and 17 kilometers from the Mediterranean.

As the Armenian Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX Catholic Tarmouni explained, the advancing Syrian soldiers provided a picture of devastation. All the churches were destroyed by the Islamists. The crosses were torn from the churches, the icons damaged or burned, statues smashed. The churches were burnt down and the walls smeared with Islamist slogans and the Koranic suras.

The reclaiming of Kessab was attended by the regular Syrian associations, self-defense units formed by Syrian Armenians.

On March 21, the attack of the Islamists had begun. Particularly active was the Al-Qaeda Salafist associated Al-Nursa Brigade. The Islamists moved from the border mountains of Turkey into the city. More than 700 families were evacuated from the city. What remained were nits of the Syrian army and the young Armenian men who formed a self-defense militia to defend the churches of the town. After heavy fighting, however, they had to retreat before the overwhelming power of the Islamist. Now they have returned to their liberated city.

The Armenian Catholic Patriarch called on the refugee population to return to Kessab and participate in the reconstruction of the city. The Armenians of Kessab are mainly engaged in agriculture, the city has a symbolic character for the Armenians. Since 1915 they had been expelled by the Turks in the great Genocide of Cilicia and Kessab is the last Armenian enclave of this area.

Lattakia governor Ahmad Sheikh Adbul-Qader inspected the work of maintenance teams in the area of Kessab and al-Samara in Lattakia northern countryside.

Adbul-Qader said work is underway ti rehabilitate infrastructure in the areas to which the army restored peace and security, adding that the maintenance teams have restored electricity and water to Kessab and al-Samara.

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