Two civilians were killed and up to 12 others were wounded when alleged Turkish-supported militants or the Syrian regime launched drones or rockets at the Aya Sophia Church in the city of al-Suqaylabiyah on July 24, 2022.
Step News Agency quoted the Syrian regime-controlled news agency “SANA” who reported that “terrorists” missiles struck a religious celebration of the opening of the Aya Sophia Church in the city of al-Suqaylabiyah, resulting in the death of two people and the injury of 11 others. The opening ceremony was open to the public and started at 11 o’clock on Sunday July 24th.
North Press Agency reported that two people were killed and 12 others were injured in the attack. Baladi News provided the name one of the people killed: Hisham Elias.
Baladi News reported that the ceremony was attended by “high-ranking Russian military figures, such as delegates from the Hmeimim Airport, the commander of the Russian Sahelian forces, religious and political figures, in addition to the presence of military figures in the regime forces and leaders of the National Defense militias.” The Cradle specified that the commander of the Syrian National Defense Forces (NDF) in Hama, Nabeul al-Abdullah, was in attendance.
According to Aleteia, the explosion took place “15 meters from the families and the archbishops of Hama, Nicolas Baalbaki, and Homs, Georges Abou Zahem, gathered in front of the building.” The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, John X, condemned the attack saying, “Our children in Suqaylabiyah are paying the price of their faith with blood. What happened in Suqaylabiyah is a despicable and reprehensible act of terrorism.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights pointed out that the location of the explosion is in an area under the control of the Syrian Regime forces and is inhabited by citizens of the Christian faith. Aleteia added that the area is also home to rebel groups, some of them supported by Turkey.
The Cradle also added the context that the church was being built as a “replica” of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan decided to turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque and that the construction was being supported by the Russians as well.
Baladi News reported that while SANA referred to the attack as being described as “a gunmen’s missile attack”, pages affiliated with the National Defense Militia said that a drone had dropped bombs, not missile shelling. The Cradle attributed what they referred to as the rocket attack and suicide drone attack to “Al-Qaeda affiliated Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS)”, referring to the attack as being carried out by “Turkish backed rebels”.
Up until now, both the Syrian regime and Syrian opposition groups have denied involvement in the attack. “The [regime] did the attack so they had an excuse to target Idlib, so that they could tell the world ‘See, Idlib targets Christians and civilians,'” Fared al-Mahool, an independent journalist and photographer in Idlib covering the humanitarian crisis in Syria, told The New Arab. However, Nabal Abdallah, the commander of the Hama branch of the regime-affiliated National Defense Forces (NDF), told The New Arab that “The attack was conducted by the terrorists and mercenaries that work for Turkey. The attack was on all those that support civilisation, humanity, happiness and life,” . Abdallah was injured during the attack.
The local time of the incident is unknown.
The victims were named as:
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Geolocation notes (3) [ collapse]
Reports of the incident mention the Aya Sophia (آيا صوفيا) church being struck in the city of Al Suqaylabiyah (السقيلبية). Analysing audio-visual material from sources, we have narrowed down the exact location of the strike to these coordinates: 35.34220016, 36.40379506.