Damascus: The Christian population in the Syrian town of Qusair has abandoned it following an ultimatum from the rebel military chief.
According to a newspaper, almost 10,000 Christians have fled the city, situated in the battleground province of Homs after the ultimatum expired on Thursday.
“Some mosques in the city have relaunched the message, announcing it from minarets: ”Christians must leave Quasir”. The reasons for ordering Christians to leave Qusair “remains unclear,” the report suggests.
Qusair has been the site of intense clashes for months between the armed rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar-al Assad.
The strategic city is close to the Lebanese border and has been a smuggling hub for arms and medicines destined for rebel forces in the embattled city of Homs.
Christians represent about 10 percent of Syria’s population, but their status in Syrian conflict zones has become more and more tenuous.
Militants in post-Hussein Iraq bombed churches, torched Christian shops and forced hundreds of thousands of Christians to flee to Syria, long regarded as safe for Christians.
Syrian opposition spokesmen have repeatedly said that Syrian rebels do not target Christians or other minorities and believe in creating a democratic society once Assad is ousted. Families fleeing Qusair have gone to nearby villages.