Time in Yerevan: 11:07:36,   24 March

Syrian army to hopefully try to liberate Kesab in 48 hours: Ambassador

YEREVAN, MARCH 27, ARMENPRESS: The delegation of the Armenian deputies met with the Kesab population on March 26 sheltered in the local church of Latakia. The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Armenia to Syria Arshak Poladyan told Armenpress about it, adding that he was also present at the meeting. “The Kesab Armenians are in severe psychological condition and were asking for help with pleading eyes. Their condition worsened after they had learned that their houses had been plundered”, - said the Ambassador.
Arshak Poladyan stated that nevertheless the Kesab Armenians are full of hope that the military actions will soon be over and they will return to their homes. According to Poladyan, now heated collisions are taking place in Kesab and the Syrian army will try to liberate the town-village in 48 hours. At present the Kesab Armenians are provided with food and covers.
The Ambassador noted as well that the Armenian Parliament’s deputies will return to Armenia on March 28.
A group of deputies of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia – Samvel Farmanyan, Arman Sahakyan, Naira Karapetyan, Tevan Poghosyan, Edmon Marukyan and Levon Martirosyan – have left for Syria. The deputies were to get acquainted with the problems and the conditions of our compatriots in Syria in place. They will present information on the current state of Kesab upon arrival.
Earlier it was reported that the Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia Aram I contacted the presidential palace of Syria appealing to send army to Kesab to provide for the security of the local population. In his turn the 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 Kesab. The Catholicos welcomed the Syrian President’s initiative and noted for his part that Kesab has a symbolic significance for the Armenian people.
According to the Armenian Weekly, the armed incursion began on Friday, March 21, 2014 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 Kesab. The attackers immediately seized two guard posts overlooking Kesab, 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.
More than 700 Armenian families, the majority of the population of Kesab, 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 Kesab, 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, Kesab had, until very recently evaded major battles in the Syrian conflict. The local Armenian population had increased in recently years with the city serving as safe-haven for those fleeing from the war-torn cities of Yacubiye, Rakka and Aleppo.

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