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Turkish offensive in Syria leaves Christians open to attack

Middle East and North Africa

Turkish offensive in Syria leaves Christians open to attack

An attack by Turkish forces on the Kurdish-controlled enclave of Afrin in north-west Syria has left Christians under threat from Islamist groups.

Pastor Valentin Hanan of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Afrin reported, “We are at this moment under heavy shelling, and Islamic groups are threatening to enter the area.”

More than 200 families attend the church, although many have already fled the city, while others have taken shelter.

The Kurdish Y.P.G. militia has previously received support from the United States to fight against Islamic State in Syria. But the Turkish government, which has been in engaged in a decades-long effort to eradicate Kurdish separatist movements, has denounced the Y.P.G. as a “terror group”.

The continued threat to Christians in Syria has also been highlighted by the deaths of nine people in Damascus on Monday (22 January). They were killed after shells were fired into a historically Christian area of the Syrian capital. A Maronite cathedral in the area was reportedly severely damaged.

Christians in Syria’s second largest city, Aleppo, endured almost daily bombardment from Islamist groups for four and a half years. Renewed fighting places Syria’s Christian community, which is already under great pressure, in an even more desperate position.