Saturday 31 October 2015

Sadad in Syria threatened by ISIL advance

Sadad between North and South, Palmyra
is just off the map centre right
A few weeks after capturing Al Qaryatain southeast of Homs and destroying the monastery of St Elian there ('Qaryatain August 2015', PACHI 21 August 2015), ISIL are still advancing west [Update see Thomas van Linge's 1st November 2015 map]. They have reportedly taken Mheen and now are headed for Sadad and the highway which is the spine of the government connecting Damascus with Aleppo through Homs and Hama. Just south of Sadad is Qarah which is the regime's bottleneck between North (where the Russians are) and South Syria. There are already ISIL groups established to its west on the Lebanese border. The Americans and Russians are active in other areas, while Assad seems unable to stop this advance - though retaking Palmyra now would isolate this group in the Homs area, and it is possible that Assad may be forced into attempting this now to avoid his shrinking territory being severed into two and his troops around Aleppo cut off from Damascus. Will we see the emergence of a Moscow-controlled 'Novosyriysk' as a result?

Sadad is predominantly Syriac Orthodox, and Christians have been living in the region alongside Moslems for some 1300 years. In October 2013, the town was briefly occupied by the al-Nusra Front. When it was retaken by the end of the month by the Syrian Arab Army, two mass graves were found containing 30 bodies of Assyrian/Syriac civilians, including women and children. Other Christians were killed during the brief rebel occupation, and several churches had also looted. There are several historical churches here, that of Mar Sarkis and the church of Saint Theodore, both of which have elaborate, historical frescoes. Slowly the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is inching towards Lebanon. The town of Sadad is probably the place Zedad mentioned in the Old Testament (Book of Numbers 34:8 and the Book of Ezekiel, 47:15) as marking the northeastern boundary of the biblical land of Canaan, the land promised to the Israelites.

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