Syrian civil war has damaged more than 120 churches, report finds

As many as 124 churches have been damaged or targeted by military forces on all sides of Syria's civil war, which has stretched on for more than eight years, according to a new report by the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR).

The report's timeline of incidents involving Syrian government forces, opposition forces and extremist militants, including the Islamic State (ISIS), extended from March 2011 to September 2019.

The researchers found 75 reported attacks involved forces supporting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, 33 involved armed opposition forces, 12 involved ISIS or other Islamic extremist groups and four incidents involved other fighting groups.

Damage from Syrian government warplanes to a church east of Damascus, in February 2018.

Damage from Syrian government warplanes to a church east of Damascus, in February 2018. (Ammar Al Bushy, SNHR)

“Assad has made Syria unsafe for all Syrians, including Christians, and he must be held accountable for his actions," said Erica Hanichak, a government relations director at Americans for a Free Syria.

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The evidence indicated some churches were the intended targets, while others were collateral damage.

The report found some churches were damaged or destroyed in bombings with no military installations or equipment nearby. Other reported incidents included houses of worship being turned into military headquarters and churches that were subject to more than one attack.

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“Syria will not become calm without transition to democracy and respect for human rights,” SNHR Chairman Fadel Abdul Ghany said.

The group added that its new report clearly showed international law was violated, as global conventions prohibit any hostile acts against places of worship.