At least 11 people were injured in a car bombing outside a Syriac Christian church in a Kurdish-majority city in northeast Syria on Thursday while at least 13 others were killed in another car bombing in Afrin.
AFP reports that IS (also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh) has claimed responsibility for Thursday’s car bombing outside of the Virgin Mary Syriac Orthodox Church in Qamishli, a city located along Syria’s northeastern border with Turkey.
According to Syrian state media, 11 people were wounded in the bombing and cars were damaged.
Communications intercepted by the SITE Intelligence Group showed that jihadis were targeting a gathering of “belligerent Christians.”
According to AFP, the front gate of the church was dented but the church building itself did not sustain structural damage.
“A car bomb detonated at the Virgin Mary Syriac Orthodox church in my city Qamishli, in Syria today wounding almost a dozen people including an 8 year old,” one Assyrian Syriac Orthodox Christian wrote on Twitter. “I hope for a day where I never hear of news like this again. Pray for my people please.”
AFP posted a video of the aftermath of the bombing that shows dozens of people standing around while smoke billows out of the destroyed vehicle out front of the church’s entrance.
While Syria has been torn by civil conflict since 2011 and has dealt with the presence of religious extremism, millions of Syrians have fled the nation as refugees in search of better lives elsewhere.
But according to International Christian Concern, Christians in Qamishli have maintained a stronger presence in the city than in most other locations throughout Syria.
ICC, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, contends that Thursday’s bombing underscores how volatile Syria remains.
“Our prayers are with the victims and families of those affected by the car bombing in Qamishli. This kind of attack serves as a reminder for all Syrian Christians on just how much work needs to be done to protect their lives and their rights,” said ICC Regional Manager Claire Evans.
“The Syrian conflict is constantly evolving, and Christians are always left in the crosshairs of opposing factions. We must work to ensure that any solution to the conflict preserves a place for Christians in society.”
Qamishli was not the only Syrian town victimized by a bombing on Thursday. Reports indicate that as many as 13 were killed and 30 others injured by a car bombing that took place in the northwestern city of Afrin, a town that was seized by Turkey-backed rebels last year and now administered by Turkish forces and allied Syrian rebels.
The bombing took place at a checkpoint manned by the Turkey-backed rebels. Among those killed were eight civilians, two of whom were children, and four were militants, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the Afrin car bombing.
In March, it was reported that five children were killed while playing near a monastery in the northwest Syrian Christian town of al-Suqaylabiyah.
Over 100 have been killed in recent days as fighting between regime forces and rebel groups sparked up last Wednesday in northwest Syria. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 57 of the killed have been Assad regime forces while 44 were rebels or jihadis.
“The fighting is ongoing as regime planes and artillery pound the area,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said, according to the Kurdish news outlet Rudaw.
Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war eight years ago, more than 370,000 people have been killed.
Last year, President Donald Trump vowed to withdraw all U.S. ground troops from Syria.
That was a decision that was unpopular among some within his conservative evangelical base who feel that a “full” and “rapid” withdrawal of U.S. troops could put Christian communities in Northern Syria in “mortal danger.”
Additionally, there was some speculation that the decision to withdraw troops from Syria is what led former Defense Secretary James Mattis’ decision to retire.