Friday, 21 August 2015

Qaryatain August 2015

ISIL continues its advance in Syria, capturing the central Syrian town of  Al-Qaryatain on 6th August leading to hundreds of Christian families fleeing - a year from the US beginning its 'programme' of airstrikes in Syrian and Iraqi territory  intended to weaken the militant organization. This is the militant organization's biggest advance since capturing the strategic town of Palmyra. The town is thought to have a mixed population of around 40,000 people, including Sunni Muslims and Christians, as well as thousands of people who have fled elsewhere in the country. The capture of the town was accompanied by the capture of several hundred Christians and taken a number of them to Raqqa, and while their fate is unknown, gruesome photos of severed heads in the streets are a stark reminder of the cruelty and human scale of the ideological cleansing ambitions of the extremists. 

The organization has already targeted  at least one ancient site in the city. On 21st August, they started demolishing  the Saint Elian monastery ('Islamic State destroys fifth-century monastery in central Syria', Associated Press Friday 21 August 2015). This comes comes days after Isis militants in Palmyra publicly beheaded an 81-year-old antiquities scholar. They wrecked a church inside the monastery that dates back to the fifth century, took the bells and started bulldozing the complex. Photos show ISIL fighters stomping around on an excavated site protected by a roof in the complex, presumably this too has now gone. Government shelling of the area had already damaged the Mar Elian monastery over the last two weeks before Isis fighters finally destroyed it. Of course, though the site itself was founded in the fifth century (so they say), many of the buildings they destroyed may have been later.

Stomping around on excavated remains

A Christian priest, Jacques Mourad, who lived at the monastery, was kidnapped from the area in May and remains missing. Mourad had welcomed and sheltered both Muslim and Christian Syrians who were fleeing the fighting elsewhere in Homs province.

'Islamic State destroys fifth-century monastery in central Syria' The Guardian‎ Friday 21st August 2015.
'Islamic State in Syria demolishes ancient Mar Elian monastery ' BBC 21st August 2015.
'Isis in Syria: 1,500-year-old Mar Elian monastery bulldozed by Islamic State in Qaryatain' International Business Times UK  21st August 2015.
'Islamic State Destroys Assyrian Christian Monastery in Syria' Wall Street Journal 21st August 2015.
'Catholic monastery in Syria 'destroyed by Isil bulldozers' Telegraph 21st August 2015.

Meanwhile, it does not much look like ISIL is on the retreat in central Syria:

ISIL territory (grey) as of 14 August 2015 by BlueHypercane761
(Qaryatain is shown as a red square in central Syria)
UPDATE 17th September 2015:
For some reason ISIL has only now released its video of the destruction (in August) of the monastery of Mar Elian. See here at Clarion Project:

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