Assyrian Christian leaders are calling for help as Islamic State attacks escalate in northern Syria.
Islamic State fighters launched a series of attacks in late February against Christian villages in Syria's northeastern Hassakeh province and abducted more than 200 hostages, including Assyrian Christians and Kurds. Nineteen of these Assyrians were released afterwards, while 52 more were reportedly set free by the ISIS last Thursday and Friday, according to the Rome-based agency Asia News.
Now, Assyrian Christian leaders are warning of additional attacks from the Islamic State.
"This is a very dangerous situation," Bassam Ishak, president of the Syriac National Council of Syria, warned in an article on the Assyrian International News Agency or AINA.
"The villages on the south side of the (Khabur River) are in the hands of Islamic State militants. They took Tal Nasri, which is very close to Tal Tamar," Ishak added, referring to the Syrian town that is on the crossroads that lead to Syria's second biggest city, Aleppo, and into Hassakeh province itself.
Ishak's organisation, together with the the European Syriac Union, and the Christian Coalition for Syria, also released a joint statement describing the full situation that Christians in Hassakeh province face.
"(The Islamic State) try to cross the Khabur with large numbers of fighters and heavy weapons," the statement said. It went on to describe the apparent strength of the Islamic State forces that are allegedly preparing to step up offensives more powerful than the Kurdish and Christian militias combined.
The statement said that the Khabur River's water level has dropped and that the ISIS could be preparing to cross. The groups urged Turkey to increase the water flow in the Khabur in an attempt to deter the militants' progress.
The groups are requesting that Turkey re-open its borders so refugees can cross to safety
"1.5 million Christians, Kurds, and other civilians are at risk," the statement added. "(There is an) urgent need for more international humanitarian and military assistance,"