A duty call for all Armenians

During the past three years of the Syrian war, in spite of the town being in a state of continuous alarm, kessab remained a relatively safe place. However, in these three years, there were several unsuccessful infiltration attempts by terrorist groups.

On the 21st of March, 2014, the attack on Kessab began with missiles and bullets. The attack increased gradually by every passing moment. In the morning at 5.45 am, the heavily armed terrorist groups were already stationed and ready for the attack. The Turkish artillery blew up the Syrian outpost at Casios mountain which is almost opposite the Turkish outpost on the Turkish side. No infiltration attempts occurred from that area in two years. The Chief of Police was injured and a number of policemen were martyred in that attack. Later on, the terrorists attacked ‘al- Sakhra’ village, occupied the two outposts and placed their weapons on the roofs of civilian buildings and opened fire on peaceful civilians and showered the town with heavy machine gun and mortars. By 7.30 am already a very large number of rockets exploded in Kessab. Then they attacked ‘Nabeh-al-Mer’ and the customs where security forces were stationed. The Syrian army forces were present at the 45 observatory.

‘Nabeh al-Mer’ area and the’45 observatory’ are considered two strategic locations in kessab. There is a 25 klm Syrian-Turkish border line that extends from ‘Nabeh al-Mer’ unill ‘al-Samra’ coast. On that border line exists three Syrian non-military outposts and only about a hundred of policemen. 1952-1953 onwards, there has been a mutual Syrian_Turkish agreement that dictated how the borders will be patrolled. The agreement says that Syrian policemen and Turkish policemen will collaborate in protecting the borders while heavy artillery must be stationed 5 km away from the borders. For this very reason, there were no Syrian military bases in the area that was attacked by the terrorists. According to this agreement, the protection of the borders falls on Turkey. Therefore, it would have been expected from Turkey to prevent the march of the terrorist groups towards the town instead of assisting them in the attack. But Turkey betrayed the agreement. Conversely, the Syrian army had been very mindful of this agreement especially over the past three years to the extent that Kessab was left at the mercy of Turkey, with no military bases whatsoever to protect the borders, even when destruction was sweeping all over Syria.

Up until March the 21st, Turkey was keeping the agreement, but this time they even helped in the attack and opened the borders widely for the terrorists who were allowed to penetrate the Syrian territories according to kessabtsi eye witnesses. On the Turkish side of ‘Nabeh al- Mer’ and on the peak of the mount Casios, Turkey has recently reinforced huge military bases and heavy artillery stations along with Radar locations which the terrorists freely utilized to march towards Kessab. Anyone in kessab will stress the fact that, with the full support of Turkey, the armed terrorists attacked the town. Immediately, the community officials gathered the Armenian inhabitants in Iki-Zoloukh after which they arranged their departure to safer areas like Al- Bassit and Lattakia. In the meantime, the Syrian army reached the town to fight back the terrorists and protect kessab. The first day was relatively calm with occasional clashes. By night, the Syrian army was able to resist and stop the terrorists from marching inside the town. On March the 22nd, Kessab was heavily attacked again with the full military support of Turkey via Islamist radical groups from ‘al-Nusra front’ , al- Qaeda affiliated terrorist group, ‘Sham Al-Islam ‘ and ‘Ansar Al-Sham’ and the Radicals succeeded in getting closer and closer to the centre of kessab. It is important to note that they have been receiving training and preparing for this attack on Kessab since seven months.

In only three days, all Armenians evacuated the town except for one Armenian family and few elderly people. Our Kessabtsi men were the last to leave the town. They have been continuously, for the past three years, safeguarding the town and patrolling the mountains in case any sudden attacks occurred. The few elderly Armenians who stayed behind refused to leave the town but later on they were forcefully relocated to Turkey by the terrorists who ceased the town. They (the terrorists) filmed the elderly showing compassion to them with the aim of misleading the public opinion after terrorizing the poor old people at gunpoint. The army kept fighting back the enormous numbers of terrorists attacking under Turkish military cover and reported a large number of casualties.  The radicals succeeded to occupy the town at the end. about 700 Armenian families, Kessabtsiz or other Armenians from Rakka and Aleppo and around Syria who were living in Kessab for the past two years, in addition to the Arab population of Kessab found shelter in the Armenian Church in Lattakia. The displaced civilians received and continue to receive various humanitarian aids by the Syrian Red Crescent, the Syrian Red Cross, the Syrian Arab and Greek Orthodox Churches, and committees from the three Armenian denominations. The pastors of the three Armenian churches from Kessab remain with their congregation and attend to their needs. The chief of police and the executive of the national health institution in Kessab also continue their duties towards the people in these difficult circumstances.

The whole world today is bound to condemn the unjustified onslaught on Kessab and Turkey’s overt interventions in favour of the terrorist groups. What has happened in Kessab represents an unequivocal proof of Turkey’s vicious ambitions in Syria and its unacceptable meddling in Syrian affairs. Today, it is the responsibility of every single Armenian worldwide to expose Turkey’s actions to the entire world and reveal the mask off its barbaric monstrous face.

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