From the Barnabas Fund

“These events which happened in Saddad are considered the greatest massacre of Christians in Syria… We ask if the terrorists are gone permanently, or if there is the possibility of a return for a second massacre… We cried out to the world and no-one heard us. Where is the Christian conscience?”      Senior church leader in Syria

[caption id="attachment_29058" align="alignright" width="300"]Islamist militants patrolling Saddad Islamist militants patrolling Saddad[/caption]

Dozens of people were killed when Islamist rebels besieged the Christian towns of Saddad and Haffar in Syria. As churches, homes and schools were looted and destroyed, 2,500 families fled while 1,500 were held as a human shield.

Militants from the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front stormed Saddad and Haffar on Monday 21 October and occupied the towns for a week. Until then, they had been relatively safe places, and hundreds of internally displaced families had sought refuge there.

A Barnabas Fund partner described the scene as 60 armed vehicles entered Saddad, a town that is mentioned in the Bible (as Zedad; Numbers 34:8; Ezekiel 47:15):

“As the vehicles and armed personnel made their way through the streets, the shouting of “Allah Akbar” [“Allah is great”] and the touting of the Quran made it clear to both permanent and displaced that their time of relative tranquility was quickly coming to an end. As the armed groups began to set up sniper posts and a campaign of shelling, the day moved from bad to worse.”

He said children were crying in fear as the militants took over the towns.

[caption id="attachment_29059" align="alignleft" width="300"]A vandalised church in Saddad A vandalised church in Saddad[/caption]

Estimates of the number of Christians killed during the siege of Saddad and Haffar range from 45 to 70; others were threatened and injured. Homes, businesses, schools and other public buildings, including the hospital, were looted and destroyed. Church buildings were attacked and graffitied with insults against Christianity.

Our partners helped Christian families to evacuate to neighbouring villages, the central city of Homs and the capital, Damascus. Barnabas sent funds to provide transport, blankets, food parcels and other essentials.

On Monday 28 October, government forces recaptured Saddad and Haffar, enabling people to return. They came home to a scene of devastation; around half of the buildings in Saddad had been destroyed, and there was no power, water or telephone connection.

It is thought that the towns were being used as a launching point for strikes against a nearby army base and arsenal. They are strategically located between Homs and Damascus.