YEREVAN (Armenpress)—The attacks against the Armenian-populated Syrian town of Kessab and Turkey’s support to the terrorists carrying out the attacks has angered some Turkish intellectuals. As Turkey’s DemokratHaber.net reports, prominent Turkish publisher and author Ragip Zarakolu and publicist Sait Cetinoglu have voiced their concerns.
“Al-Qaeda’s group easily crossed the border with Antakya and attacked the magnificent region of Kessab, situated right on the opposite side of the border. Among the other peculiarities of Kessab is that it is an Armenian-populated town. But now Kessab is totally empty. The local population has again had to migrate after 1915 and then 1939. They have currently fled to Latakia,” Ragip Zarakolu underscored.
Another Turkish intellectual Sait Cetinoglu stated that the houses of the Armenians are being robbed. Among other things Sait Cetinoglu emphasized: “I have friends in Kessab. Historian Hakob Cholakian from Musa Dagh also lives in Kessab. I am concerned with the situation my friends appeared in. Kessab was a real paradise on earth. What a pity that nothing will be left from that beauty. There are testimonies saying that the looting is coordinated from Turkey.”
The armed incursion began on Friday, March 21, with rebels associated with Al-Qaeda’s al-Nusra Front, Sham al-Islam and Ansar al-Sham crossing the Turkish border and attacking the Armenian civilian population of Kessab. The attackers immediately seized two guard posts overlooking Kessab, including a strategic hill known as Observatory 45 and later took over the border crossing point with Turkey. Snipers targeted the civilian population and launched mortar attacks on the town and the surrounding villages.
According to eyewitness accounts, the attackers crossed the Turkish border with Syria openly passing through Turkish military barracks. According to Turkish media reports, the attackers carried their injured back to Turkey for treatment in the town of Yayladagi.
Some 670 Armenian families, the majority of the population of Kessab, were evacuated by the local Armenian community leadership to safer areas in neighboring Basit and Latakia. Ten to fifteen families with relations too elderly to move were either unable to leave or chose to stay in their homes.
On Saturday, March 22, Syrian troops launched a counteroffensive in an attempt to regain the border crossing point, eye-witnesses and state media reported. However, on Sunday, March 23, the extremist groups once again entered the town of Kessab, took the remaining Armenian families hostage, desecrated the town’s three Armenian churches, pillaging local residences and occupying the town and surrounding villages.
Located in the northwestern corner of Syria, near the border with Turkey, Kessab had, until very recently, evaded major battles in the Syrian conflict. The local Armenian population had increased in recent years with the city serving as safe-haven for those fleeing from the war-torn cities of Yacubiye, Rakka and Aleppo.