Christians living in northern Syria fear of genocide after an imminent Turkish military buildup along the border. Turkey is targeting a Kurdish group believed to be a terrorist threat.

Syrian Christians are worried they would suffer the same fate as in Afrin, reports online Catholic news website, Aleteia. In March 2018, Turkish military fought with Kurdish militants in the area which forced Kurdish inhabitants, some of them Christian converts, to seek refuge elsewhere.

“Turkey has been amassing troops at Ras al-Ayn, where there is no U.S. military presence,” said Syriac Christian political leader Bassam Ishak. “The expectation is that they will push out the inhabitants and turn the region over to extremist jihadist groups that they support, just like they did in Afrin a year ago.”

Ishak said Turkey’s fight against the Kurds negatively affects the Syrian population and ancient Christian communities living along the Syrian-Turkish border. Turkey wants a 20-mile deep safe zone, but these are the areas where Kurds and Christians live.

Ishak disclosed three separate church attacks which happened on July 11. One explosion was during the evening services, injuring 11 Christians. He said a truck was parked outside the church and the bomb was remotely detonated before the end of the Mass. “If the blast happened 10 or 15 minutes later, when the people were leaving the church, it would have been a catastrophe.”

Syrian Christian groups have called on the United States to intervene and protect them against the increasing Turkish movement in the area.

Lauren Homer, a Washington, D.C.-based international human rights lawyer, called the situation of Turkish troops amassing as “puzzling,” according to Crux Now. She questioned Turkey’s motive behind its military buildup in the region—whether Turkey is directly challenging the US or making an “imminent threat to follow through on its long-threatened invasion of the entire Democratic Self-Administration.”

Homer echoed Ishak’s fears. She said if Turkey doesn’t back down, “it will be a repeat of Afrin in any territory they seize, bringing targeted genocide, ethnic cleansing, rapes and trafficking of women.”

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