Christians flee Syria’s Kessab - Video -
The Syrian Army is trying to retake the Christian majority town of Kessab reportedly seized by al-Qaeda-linked forces. The attack made hundreds of ethnic Armenians flee and caused international outcry with Armenia blaming Turkey for supporting extremists.
Warring sides in Syria are facing off over Kessab, an ethnic Armenian hub on the Turkey-Syria border. The town was taken by Jabhat Al-Nusra, forcing hundreds of residents to flee and sparking international outcry.
Kessab – located in Syria’s Latakia province, just miles away from Turkey – fell to rebels sparking a fierce battle in the media as conflicting reports are coming in about the events in the town which is home to over 2,000 ethnic Armenians.
On March 21, extremist groups affiliated with al-Qaeda reportedly crossed into Syria from Turkey and seized the town after clashes with Syrian government troops and local self-defense squads.
The Armenian govt called on the UN to protect Kessab, evoked the Armenian genocide, and accused Turkey of allowing Jihadists cross their border to attack Kessab. Ankara slammed the accusations and condemned the charge as ‘confrontational political propaganda’ .
Arman Saakyan, Armenian MP from the Republican Party has recently returned from the Syrian town of Latakia, where he managed to talk to Kessab refugees. He told RT that the armed groups got into Syria’s Kessab from Turkish soil.
“In the early hours on Saturday [March 22] Turkish border guards disappeared and terrorists, representatives of different countries, attacked Kessab from there with the support of artillery,” he said.
With the help of local self-defense forces and the Syrian army the majority of ethnic Armenians managed to flee Kessab and are currently resided on the territory of an Armenian church in the coastal city of Latakia, the parliament member said. Only some elderly people still remain in the town "occupied by militants from the al-Nusra [Front],” he added.
A group of residents found shelter in St. George's Armenian monastery in Latakia, about 60 km from Kessab, according to a stringer for RT video agency Ruptly.
“Everyone gathered and started going towards Al-Nabien to be safe. We along with the army and the national defense forces we saved as many as we could,” Father Maron, a priest from the town told Ruptly. “40 more people remained in Kessab - mostly the old and immobile - but we managed to gather the majority and most of the families came to Latakia.”
The residents of the town managed to escape in the very last moment before “their homes were attacked,” Bugus Kazaryan, the chair of the Armenian Community Council in Latakia told RT. He said around 850 families from Kessab – “not only Armenians, but also residents of other nationalities” – have currently taken shelter in Latakia.
They fled the town in order to let the Syrian Army “destroy the terrorists who only came to Syria to kill, they’ve got no other goals,” Kazaryan said.
“The bombardment started early morning. We struggled to save our son. We were laying on the ground because of the heavy bombing. We could take nothing from our home,” Kessab resident Hrach Chegelian told RT.
“We took nothing with us. No clothes – we just left with what we were wearing at that moment,” Siran Demirchian said.