Hundreds of Syrian Christians Flee IS

Hundreds of Syrian Christians Flee ISHundreds of Syrian Christians Flee IS

Hundreds of Christian families have fled a central Syrian town as Islamic State militants advance toward it, activists said on Saturday, the anniversary of the US beginning airstrikes against the extremists in Iraq.

On Saturday, Osama Edward, the director of the Christian Assyrian Network for Human Rights in Syria, said “hundreds of families” have fled the Christian town of Sadad toward the government-held central city of Homs and the capital, Damascus, AP reported.

Syria-based activist Bebars al-Talawy said intense clashes took place Saturday near the central town of Qaryatain, which the IS captured on Thursday. Qaryatain is about 25 km southeast of Sadad.

Qaryatain lies in the middle of a triangle formed by the cities of Homs, Palmyra and Damascus and has a mixed population of around 40,000 Sunni Muslims and Christians as well as thousands of internally displaced people who earlier fled Homs.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Saturday’s fighting concentrated in an area between Qaryatain and the village of Mheen, which is halfway to Sadad.

Sadad was captured briefly in 2013 by members of al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, the Nusra Front, and was retaken later by government forces.

The militants abducted around 230 residents, including dozens of Christians, from Qaryatain in recent days. Some Christians were reportedly released, though the fate of the others is still unknown.

IS is expanding its operations in Syria and Iraq, although a US-led coalition has carried out more than 6,000 airstrikes on the militants in the past year.