Hundreds of Christians have teamed up with many Muslims in the ranks of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s army to prevent the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) from conquering the biblical town of Sadad, according to the leader of the Syriac Orthodox church.
The Bible books of Numbers and Ezekiel refer to the mostly Christian town of Sadad in Syria as “Zedad.” The town is considered to be strategically important because it lies on a highway that connects the Syrian capital of Damascus to the town of Homs.
The jihadist group has already seized the town Maheen in central Homs province, less than five miles from Sadad, prompting hundreds of Christians from across Syria to travel and come together to defend the biblical town.
Homs province’s town of Sadad has been under siege by ISIS for over a week, Mor Ignatius Aphrem Karim II, head of the Syriac Orthodox church, told Newsweek, noting over 500 Christian fighters have been fighting to defend the town.
He added that over 200 Christian fighters, joined by Muslims, have traveled quite some distance to prevent the strategic town from falling into the hands of Islamic State, also known by the acronym IS.
Christian minority groups fighting ISIS, such as the Assyrian Army, have supplicated the Obama administration for military and financial support, stressing that they lack the weapons and equipment to continue fighting the jihadist group.
Karim traveled from the Syrian capital to Sadad to boost the morale of the Syriac fighters, Newsweek reports.
“It is under assault,” he stressed. “IS advanced toward Sadad but they were not able to enter Sadad. The young people in Sadad, with the help of some armed groups, were able to fight back and push IS back to where they started. They are helped by some groups coming from different parts of Syria also.”
The hundreds of Christians who have traveled to join the fight against ISIS have been joined by many Muslims and Alawites in the ranks of the Syrian army, Karim explained.
He added that a couple hundred fighters from the Lebanon-based Syrian Social Nationalist Party militia, which also includes Muslims, have joined the forces fighting to keep ISIS out of the town.
The Syrian/Lebanese-recognized political party is considered by Kerry Patton, a combat service disabled veteran and senior analyst for Wikistrat, as “one of the greatest movers and shakers supporting Lebanese terror.”
Although many of the Syriac fighters traveled to Sadad from relatively nearby Damascus and various towns throughout the province of Homs, some of them come from as far as Qamishli, a town near Syria’s border with Turkey.
Qamishli is located about an eight-hour drive from Sadad.
“People from all over Syria have arrived to fight for Sadad,” a Christian fighter told Newsweek on condition of anonymity. “It is a symbolic place for us and we will not allow it to fall again.”
The al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, conquered the town in 2013.
Assad’s army recaptured Sadad a week later, but not before ISIS murdered at least 46 Syriac Christians there.
Nevertheless, he said it is refreshing to see Syrian Christians banding together to defend their homeland at a time when Christianity in the region is in danger of becoming extinct.
“It was emotional but it was also very encouraging to see our young people determined to defend their land and stay in their homeland,” he told Newsweek. “To see them ready to fight and to sacrifice for their land, I think that’s what’s very meaningful, that made me very proud of them.”
The ongoing ISIS offensive in the Assyrian heartlands has driven many Sadad residents away from their homes despite hundreds of fighters joining forces to protect the town.
Newsweek notes that the town’s population dropped by nearly 90 percent from about 15,000 during the summer to an estimated 2,000 now.
Among the individuals who have joined the Syrian army to defend Sadad are Alawites, the minority sect of Shiite Islam that Assad belongs to.
Considered to be heretics by many Muslims, Alawites follow a controversial branch of the Twelver school of Shiite Islam.
Assad has formed an anti-ISIS alliance with Iran and the Lebanese-based Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah.
Backed by Russian airstrikes, Iran troops, Hezbollah jihadists, and the Syrian army have joined forces to launch a ground offensive to retake key areas from rebels in Syria.