What it's like on the ground during the Turkey-Syria offensive

A house destroyed by shelling(Photo: Open Doors International)

As Turkey's attack on the north-eastern Syria continues, eyewitnesses report homes ripped apart by missiles and Christians fleeing.

George Moushi, pastor of the Alliance Church in Qamishli, has walked around the city and visited members of his congregation to estimate the damage and see what he could do for his people following the Turkish offensive on Syria.

Pastor Moushi described the damage he saw on the ground: "Thankfully, the bombs didn't hit the centre of the city where the majority of people are but, despite that, there were deaths and people injured.

"Today I visited a Christian family whose house was hit by two missiles. Fadi Habsouna, the father of two children, was injured and lost his house and his shop. His wife's spine was severely damaged and she is in a critical state. Doctors said she needs surgery and might be paralysed forever."

Pastor Moushi knows Fadi personally and that he has no money to afford the surgery and medicine necessary for his wife, so he helped Fadi out with some money. Fadi's wife may need to be transferred to Damascus to be treated due to the lack of necessary equipment in the Qamishli hospital.

Pastor Moushi is letting a family whose home was destroyed by a missile use a house owned by the church. However, this is only a temporary solution for them, he said.

He described a man who was beheaded in the street when shrapnel hit his neck: "It was a horrifying scene.

"Friday night the bakery was hit. It is the main source of our bread.

"People are really concerned about the prisons where IS members are held - one in Hassakeh and one in Qamishli - getting hit and that many prisoners might escape."

In Qamishli there is a Syriac protection office which is called 'Sootoro'. "The Sootoro here caught someone in our area, who they suspect to be part of self-proclaimed Islamic State," Pastor Moushi said. "They are investigating him. People are afraid of terrorist attacks that these people might plan after being freed, especially against Christians."

According to Pastor Moushi, from the north of Syria there is a new wave of citizens fleeing the region: "Christians are leaving in big numbers either from Qamishli or from Al Malikiyah." They are going to Al Hassakeh which, although it is also not safe right now, is still better than Qamishli. Other people who have the means to reach further than Al Hassakeh are going to Homs. Each day there are more than 10 buses taking people from all religions or denominations towards other cities like Homs and even Damascus.

"We as a church had a meeting on Saturday 12 October to decide if we should stay or leave. About eight families have decided to leave, to go to Homs. It is a group of about 40 people. But my church will support, by all means possible, whoever decides to stay.

"These 40 people decided to leave their homes, to abandon their dreams to live and grow in the city where they were born."

40,000 to 50,000 Christians are already caught up in the escalating conflict in northern Syria, as Turkish troops attack Kurdish-led forces. This number is very likely to increase in the coming days.

Open Doors has been working through local church partners in the region for many years, and it is well-placed to help in this new and urgent crisis. Open Doors' partners are on the ground, assessing and responding to immediate needs and caring for those affected by the fighting.

Syria is number 11 on Open Doors' World Watch List, a ranking of 50 countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian.

To support Open Doors' work in Syria visit their website.