Al Qaeda-Linked Islamists Capture Syrian Christian Village

Syrian Islamist forces have killed Hilal Assad, a relative of Syrian President Bashar al Assad and key commander of the government military forces who was defending the Armenian Christian city of Kassat last weekend.

Led by Al-Nusra forces, fighters from Ahrar al Sham, the Islamic Front, and others affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria took over the 1,700 person town on Sunday, filled with many believed to be backing President Bashar al Assad in hopes that he could better ensure their safety than Islamist rebels, according to the AP. The victorious rebels walked through the streets shouting and praising Allah, the Christian Broadcasting Network has described.

Many of the Armenian-Syrians subsequently lashed out at Turkey for allowing Islamists to cross and transport weapons across the Syrian-Turkish border with few repercussions, and expressed anger towards Turkey shooting down a Syrian war plane the same weekend.

"The Turks are [working against] us again," a Kassab resident tweeted. "This is unacceptable considering history. Genocide repeat [in] Kassab. What a bad day this has been. God bless everyone who is defending the beautiful village of Kassab."

Armenian-Syrians are descendants of those who fled a genocide that came at the hands of the Ottoman Empire in 1915, killing 1.5 million of their people, and resettled in Syria. Triggered by the increased violence in the region, Armenian-Syrians have seemingly begun to conflate the actions of Turkey and Al-Qaeda-linked groups like al-Nusra.

A Kassab student now living in the United Arab Emirates told the WSJ that many of the town's residents are now "living in the Armenian church of Latakia [city] where they receive food from the Armenians living there."

"The place we used to spend our summer memories has turned into a war zone….the Free Syrian Army is bombing the place while the Syrian Army is doing all they can do to save Kassab…The only positive thing is that the people in Kassab, including my friends and family, escaped just in time. They will surely going to be homeless after the battle."

Christians, who make up around 8 percent of the Syrian population, have suffered heavily, with Islamic rebel groups destroying churches and sometimes entire towns, murdering dozens of followers of Christ.

Syrian president elections will be held in July.