Islamic State in Syria demolishes al-Qaryatain monastery

Image released by IS-linked media outlet, purporting to show the battle for the town

Islamic State militants seized al-Qaryatain earlier in August

Islamic State (IS) militants have demolished a Christian monastery in the central Syrian town of al-Qaryatain.

The militants had also moved Christians taken captive in the town to their stronghold of Raqqa, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a UK-based monitoring group.

IS captured al-Qaryatain from government forces some two weeks ago.

Separately, at least four people have died in an Israeli strike on a Syrian-held section of the Golan Heights.

Israel has carried out a wave of strikes in the area, which lies in south-western Syria, after rockets fired from Syria struck its territory on Thursday. The rockets set fire to scrubland but did not cause any casualties.

Israel’s military has accused Palestinian militants from the Islamic Jihad group of firing the rockets, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the attack had been ordered by Iran.

Bulldozers

Islamic State militants in al-Qaryatain, in Homs province, reportedly used bulldozers to demolish the Mar Elian monastery.

IS has also transferred more than 100 captives – including Christians seized when they overran al-Qaryatain – to Raqqa, according to the SOHR, a group that monitors the conflict using a network of contacts in Syria.

The captives include Jacques Mourad, a prominent local priest who had been working at the Mar Elian monastery.

Christians carrying religious paintings in Aleppo

Minorities such as the Christians – pictured here in the Syrian city of Aleppo – have been targeted by IS

IS regards Christians as infidels. The threat of violence and persecution from the militants has forced many Christian communities from their homes in Syria and northern Iraq.

Al-Qaryatain was captured in the militants’ first major offensive since May, when they seized the historic town of Palmyra, famed for its Roman-style ruins.

More than 230,000 Syrians have died in the civil war, which began after anti-government protests in March 2011.

Rebel groups that originally fought against the government of President Bashar al-Assad have also been battling each other in an increasingly complex and bloody conflict.

Iran accused

Separately on Friday, Prime Minister Netanyahu accused Iran of giving “sponsorship and instruction” to militants who fired rockets on Israel.

An Israeli defence official earlier told Reuters news agency that at least five or six Palestinian militants from the Islamic Jihad group had been killed in an Israeli attack, in retaliation for the rocket fire.

Israeli tank in Golan Heights, 21 August 2015

Israel’s military maintains a strong presence in the Golan Heights

However, a Syrian army source, quoted on Syrian state TV, said the Israeli strike – on a car near the town of Quneitra – had killed five civilians.

One Syrian soldier was earlier reported killed in an Israeli strike on military positions in the Syrian-held section of the Golan Heights.

Israel seized most of the Golan Heights from Syria in the closing stages of the 1967 Six-Day War.

Islamic State

source: BBC NEWS

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