Rebel militias caused the death of at least four Christian teenagers (three girls and a boy) and their teacher on Sunday. Artillery and missiles fired by rebel militias on the Syrian town of Al-Sqaylabiyeh, in the governorate of Hama, mostly inhabited by Orthodox Christians, continued on Monday 13 May.
During the attempted offensive in the north-western area of Hama province in 2014, the Islamist militias of Jabhat al-Nusra and those of the so-called 'Free Syrian Army', FSA had repeatedly tried to occupy Sqaylabiyeh and the nearby town of Mhardeh. Some of the young people and the wealthy of those villages helped to create the so-called 'National Defense Units', militias supporting the army of Damascus.
The mortar fire on Al-Sqaylabiyeh is part of the new escalation of the Syrian conflict, now concentrated in the northwestern province of Idlib, around areas still controlled by Islamist militias and the Free Syrian Army. Sources and organizations opposed to the Syrian government spread news about raids on areas carried out by the army of Damascus and by Russian planes on Idlib, as an anticipation of an imminent all-out military operation that the Syrian army's military is apparently preparing to regain the entire area.
Syrian official media believe the rebel militias are violating the 'de-escalation' agreement reached last year between Russia and Turkey, continuing to hit with heavy artillery cities and residential areas beyond the buffer zones that surround Idlib, in violation of the ceasefire.