AINA, February 23, 2015
The Assyrian church of Mar Bisho on fire, in Tel Shamiran, Syria.
Hassaka, Syria (AINA) -- Fighting broke out at 5 AM today between ISIS and Assyrian and Kurdish fighters in the Hasaka province in northeast Syria. ISIS attacked the Assyrian villages of Tel Goran, Tel Hurmiz, Tel Tamar, Tel Baloaa Tel Shamiran, Tel Riman, Tel Nasra, Tel Khareta, and Abu Tena. The ISIS fighters were met by members of Assyrian Guards (called Natorehs), an Assyrian Militia, and Kurdish fighters form YPG. 4 Assyrian fighters were killed as well tens of ISIS fighters. According to the latest reports, fighting is still ongoing in Tel Tamar.
ISIS has abducted dozens of Assyrian men, women and children, including 12 from Tel Hurmiz, 15 from Tel Goran. They have been brought to Jabal Abdul Aziz. The residents of the villages of Tel Shamiran (approximately 50) and Tel Jazira (about 40) are being held captive in their own villages by ISIS.
According to a report by Newsweek, ISIS will use the Assyrian hostages for a prisoner swap with Kurdish fighters.
A number of churches have been destroyed, including the church in Tel Hurmiz, one of the oldest churches in Syria, the Mar Bisho church in Tel Shamiran, the church in Qabr Shamiy and the church in Tel Baloua.
There are 35 contiguous Assyrian villages on both sides of the Khabur river, stretching 80 kilometers west from Hassaka to Ras al-Ain. The remaining inhabitants of these villages, some 3000, have now been evacuated, most to Hasaka and about 200 to Qamishli. Hundreds have taken refuge in St. Mary church in Hasaka and and St. Ephrem church in Qamishli.
In Hasaka the Assyrian Democratic Organization was aiding the Assyrian refugees with housing and food.
AINA spoke by telephone to Hani Zaya, whose parents, who live in Tel Goran, were abducted by ISIS. According to Mr. Zaya, local Arabs who are members of ISIS and who knew the Assyrian village residents reportedly brought them to "safe-houses" in nearby villages. None of the captives have answered or made telephone calls. Calls made by relatives of the captives have been answered by ISIS members, who have said there is nothing to be done for the hostages.
An Assyrian women who lives in Indiana said her mother, father and sister were abducted in Tel Jazira.
The Syrian army is reportedly 3-5 kilometers from Tel Hurmiz and has offered assistance.
Three weeks ago ISIS ordered Assyrians in the region of Hassaka to remove the crosses from their churches and to pay jizya (Christian poll tax), warning residents that if they failed to pay they would have to leave or else be killed (AINA 2015-02-03).
Ashur Gewargis contributed reporting from Beirut.