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ICC Note: As Islamic Extremist groups have battled to control land across Syria, Christian churches and property have been regularly destroyed. In Kessab, an Armenian town near the Turkish border, videos and pictures were posted purporting to show the extremists as protecting the churches, but the evidence shows that those churches were destroyed, witnesses saying that it happened just moments after the pictures and videos were taken.

01/03/2015 Syria (Telegraph) Rain seeped into the tombs through shattered flagstones. Nearby, marble crosses lay in pieces. Plastic flowers, once lovingly placed on a grave, were torn and stamped into the earth.

Beside the desecrated graveyard in the Syrian town of Kessab stood the Holy Trinity Armenian Evangelical church. Its library, pews and altar had all been burned by arsonists.

The perpetrators had shown both purpose and glee in their destruction of Christian sites in this ancient Armenian town. Statues were riddled with bullets and Islamist slogans were scrawled across the walls of homes and shops.

Once a haven from Syria’s civil war, nestled in the hills of Latakia province, Kessab gained international fame when it was captured by rebels last spring in a surprise offensive that forced the town’s 2,500 Armenian Christians to flee.

Turkey was widely accused of helping the insurgents to capture Kessab, despite the participation in the attack of Jabhat al-Nusra, an affiliate of al-Qaeda.

But the Syrian armed forces took back the town in June after it had endured three months of rebel occupation. The Telegraph travelled to the area on a facility trip with the Syrian regime to witness the aftermath of the battle.

The desecration of Kessab’s churches contradicts the claims of Syrian rebels that their fighters are non-sectarian protectors of Christian residents and heritage.

The evidence also fails to support counter-claims by pro-government groups that Armenian Christians were “massacred” during the rebel offensive.

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