EDLEB, Syria — After the withdrawal of Syrian regime forces from several villages north of Jisr al-Shughur in Edleb (Idlib) Province and the displacement of the indigenous Christian inhabitants in 2013, armed factions took control of their property.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), those who remained — about 60 families, most of them elderly — have experienced harsh conditions within those villages.
SOHR reported that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which controls the villages, seized the houses and settled IDPs in most and converted others into mosques or economic offices for the group.
HTS is notorious for suppressing the religious freedom of the remaining Christian families which are only allowed to pray within churches, some of which have been damaged or destroyed by Syrian regime bombing, provided that the church’s crosses are covered and church bells do not ring.
SOHR reported that ten displaced families had been settled by the HTS in Al-Qunaya and Al-Yakubiyah churches, after parts of them were destroyed due to previous military operations, in clear misappropriation of Christian property.