Militants of the Islamic State carrying out mass execution. File photo: Fourqan
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ALEPPO – Radical group of the Islamic State (ISIS) has recently banned dozens of Christian families from leaving Syria’s northeastern city of Raqqa, especially after the U.S.-led coalition forces intensified their airstrikes on the group’s headquarters in the region, local sources reported on Friday.
The ISIS terror group is trying to use the Christians, who are stranded in Raqqa along with other minority religious groups, as human shields in the coming days, according to local activists.
Speaking to ARA News in Raqqa, rights activist M.Z. said there are fears that ISIS may use all the remaining Christians as human shields in its de facto capital Raqqa, especially with the approaching battles on its border from both northeast and southwest of the province.
“ISIS is about to be besieged by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-Arab alliance operating along the Syria-Turkey borderline,” he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
On Thursday, the SDF reported advancement in the oil-rich area between Deir ez-Zor province and Raqqa, northeast Syria, subsequent to clashes with the radical group of Islamic State (ISIS), military sources told ARA News. The western-backed SDF forces have seized the Rweshid oil field after expelling ISIS from the Abu Khashab district west of the town of Margada in Syria’s northeastern Hasakah province.
“Also, the Syrian army forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad are progressing towards the Syrian desert areas subsequent to its control over the ancient city of Palmyra,” the source reported.
Retaking Palmyra from ISIS, in central Syria, is paving the way for the army to head to the eastern Deir ez-Zor province and then to the group’s de facto capital of Raqqa.
An informed local source told ARA News that ISIS has issued a new decision to ban Christians [Assyrians and Armenians] from leaving Raqqa, pointing out that the fate of at least 41 Christian families remains unknown under ISIS reign.
Christians are deemed as ‘infidels’ by ISIS, which accuses them of loyalty to nonbelievers and Crusaders (in reference to the Western countries).
“ISIS has prevented many of its local top leaders from leaving the city [of Raqqa] as well, especially with the group’s power declining in the past few months,” media activist Salim Raqqawi told ARA News, pointing out that ISIS “is preparing to use religious minorities remaining in the city as human shields during battles against opponents”.
In March 2013, Syrian rebel groups controlled the city of Raqqa after battles with Syrian army forces. It was the first province controlled by rebels in the Syrian conflict since 2011. However, the city has then fell to ISIS militants who expelled Syrian rebels from whole province.
“Christians in Raqqa suffer the most under ISIS control,” Raqqawi stressed.
Last May, ISIS extremists abducted Father Jack Murad, head of Mar Alyan monastery in al-Qaryatain town after seizing the nearby ancient city of Palmyra in central Syria.
At that time, the terror group has kidnapped over 220 civilians, including at least 60 Christians, after seizing the key town al-Qaryatain in the countryside of Homs, according to local activists.
The radical group carries out atrocities against Christians after accusing them of apostasy and legitimizes their death, confiscation of their property and enslavement of their women.
On the other hand, independent human rights organizations blamed the Syrian government for spreading sedition within the Syrian society by giving the conflict a sectarian dimension, yet denying the detention of hundreds of Christians.
Two weeks ago, U.S. State Department declared that ISIS is pushing to the extinction of Christians and other religious minorities from Syria and Iraq, accusing the terror group of committing what it described as a ‘genocide’.
However, despite U.S. supportive remarks to the religious minorities in the war-torn countries of Syria and Iraq, especially Christians, the Obama administration seems unable to change its military strategy in order to stop such atrocities.
Christians constitute a main social component in Hasakah province and other areas across Syria. During the crisis, many Christians escaped their homes for fear of persecution. The majority of Christians in Syria belong to the Eastern communions, which have existed in Syria since the earliest days of Christianity.
Reporting by: Helin Saeed
Source: ARA News