Turkish forces pound Assyrian church in Syria’s Tel Tamr

TEL TAMR, Syria (North Press) – Turkish forces targeted on Sunday an Assyrian village in the town of Tel Tamr in north of Hasakah governorate, northeast Syria, destroying the church of the village.

The Turkish forces and the Turkish-backed armed Syrian opposition factions (also known as the Syrian National Army, SNA) targeted the Assyrian village of Tel Tawil, and caused material damage to the Mar Sawa Church.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) posted, on its Facebook page, footages showing the extent of the destruction caused by the Turkish bombing to the church.

This is not the first time that this church is targeted. In 2015, the Islamic State Organization (ISIS) blew it up, and during that period more than 250 Christians from Khabur villages were kidnapped, according to reports.

On Monday the SDF spokesperson Aram Hanna posted on his official Facebook account that he had received a call from the Syriac Orthodox Archbishop of Jazira and Euphrates, Mar Maurice Amseeh, with the aim of reviewing the latest developments on the frontlines with Turkey.

Hanna said that they discussed during the phone call the Turkish attacks on the western and northern areas of Tel Tamr, where the Assyrian villages are located.

Amseeh said that the Turkish attacks reveal Turkey’s expansionist ambitions, as well as its goal of emptying the region of Christians.

The Archbishop necessitated the need to neutralize the churches from military conflicts, and pledged to convey the repercussions of the recent escalation to the concerned parties, during his current tour in Europe.

In his words to the Archbishop, Hanna stressed that the SDF is commitment to the ceasefire agreements, with its full readiness to confront any possible aggression.

Following the Turkish “Peace Spring” military operation in October 2019, which resulted in the occupation of the two cities of Tel Abyad, north of Raqqa, and Sere Kaniye (Ras al-Ain), north of Hasakah, Turkey signed two ceasefire agreements, one with Russia and the other with the US.

The agreements stipulate halt of all hostilities there and the withdrawal of the SDF 30 km in depth away from the Turkish border in addition to conducting Turkish-Russian joint patrols in order to monitor the implementation of the agreements.

The area is almost empty of its Christian inhabitants, due to the repeated bombing, either by ISIS previously or the Turkish forces now, according to a member of the General Command of the Assyrian Khabur Guards, Nabil Warda.

The countryside of Tel Tamr, or what is known as the Khabur Basin, previously included more than 12 thousand people, distributed over 32 villages, but current estimates indicate that the number has decreased to about a thousand people only.

In the recent period, villages of the countryside of Tel Tamr have been undergoing intensive shelling by the Turkish forces and the SNA factions on an almost daily basis, spreading panic among the residents, according to what North Press monitored.

The Syriac Military Council operates under the umbrella of the SDF and it maintains a strong presence in the towns and villages near the Khabur River in the northern countryside of Hasakah governorate.

Reporting by Rahaf Youssef