International and Local organizations providing support
LATAKIA, Syria (A.W.)—A delegation of priest from the Catholicosate of Cilicia who had visited Latakia to assess the needs of Kessab Armenians and express solidarity returned to Antelias after the Sunday Badarak.
According to the delegation, the local Armenian community, the International Red Cross, and the Red Crescent are providing assistance to those who have sought refuge in the city. An estimated 2,000 Kessab Armenians are currently in Latakia.
“Many Armenian families are staying with relatives and friends, while others have sought refuge in the Armenian Church and the church’s hall,” said Syrian Armenian community activist Nerses Sarkissian during a phone interview with Weekly editor Khatchig Mouradian.
“The Aleppo Armenian Prelacy as well as the Red Crescent are providing relief and assistance to these families in Latakia,” Sarkissian added.
Extremist fighters engage in robbery and desecration
The fighters, mostly from the extremist Nusra Front, who have entered Kessab are desecrating churches, pillaging houses, and destroying government buildings, Sarkissian told the Weekly. A few Syrian Armenians have been unable to leave Kessab, and their fate is unclear, he added.
Sarkissian underlined that the fighters came from the Turkish side of the border and are receiving support from the Turkish military. He noted that the injured among them are being transported back to Turkey to receive medical attention.
Assad ‘reassures’ Aram Catholicos
Syria’s ambassador to Lebanon visited Catholicos Aram I in Antelias on March 22, conveying to him Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s assurances that peace will be restored in Kessab.
A delegation of priests left Antelias for Latakia on March 23 to assess needs and express the Catholicosate’s solidarity with the displaced population of Kessab.
Turkey downs Syrian fighter jet
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed reports that the Turkish military had shot down Syrian fighter jet. The fighter jet crashed in Kessab. According to Ankara, it came under fire after crossing the Turkish border.
Meanwhile, clashes continued. “According to a military source, units of the armed forces have since morning been directing fatal strikes to the terrorist groups which infiltrated the border from Turkey in Kassab area, inflicting heavy losses upon them,” reported the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on March 23.
Perched in the northwestern corner of Syria, near the border with Turkey, Kessab had, until very recently, evaded major battles between the army and rebels. Many Syrians had taken refuge there because of the relative calm in the area over the past three years.