Sixty-three churches have been damaged or destroyed so far during four years of civil war in Syria, says the Syrian Network for Human Rights.
In a comprehensive 21-page report, first published in Arabic on 7 May and now in English, the rights group, known for being anti-government, launches a withering attack on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, claiming they were responsible for almost two thirds of the attacks.
The SNHR blames opposition forces for 14 and Islamic extremist groups for seven (ISIS, six; Al-Nusra Front, one). Two are unattributed; the remaining 40 are blamed on the “ruthless” al-Assad regime.
The report, ‘Targeting Christian Places of Worship in Syria’, took five months to compile, says the SNHR, which claims it verified each of its photos and videos that were provided by locals or obtained from social media. However, the group acknowledges it “might not have been able to document all incidents.”
Dr. Wael Aleji, spokesperson for SNHR, acknowledges in the report that war is often indiscriminate – “Christians and their places of worship have suffered as much as the rest of the Syrian people. Scud missiles, chemical weapons or barrel bombs do not differentiate between Christians and non-Christians.”
However, both extremist groups and government and opposition forces are accused of committing war crimes through “deliberate targeting” of churches, and not just “random” attacks. All three are also accused of breaching international law by using churches as military bases.
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SOURCE: World Watch Monitor