ISIS captures Syrian town with Christian families in surprise attack

(Reuters/Yazan Homsy)A boy rides on a tricycle along a damaged street in the besieged area of Homs, Syria.

The Islamic State terror group has captured a Syrian town, where several Christian families are believed to be living, following a surprise attack against regime forces on Sunday.

The town of Al-Qaryatain in the central province of Homs has been surrounded by government troops after it fell under the control of ISIS.

The town, which is known to be a symbol of religious coexistence, was home to some 30,000 people — 900 of whom are Christians — before the civil war broke out in 2011.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that violent clashes broke out after the jihadists sneaked into the town.

According to a report from Agence France Presse (AFP), the town was liberated from ISIS in April 2016, eight months after it fell under jihadist control.

In early August 2015, at least 270 Christians were abducted by ISIS from the town, and were transported to an underground dungeon 90 kilometers (55 miles) away deep in the Syrian desert.

The abducted Christians were freed 25 days later, but the terror group had destroyed a fifth-century monastery in the town that same month.

ISIS is currently battling against a Russian-backed government offensive, as well as a U.S.-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters.

Earlier this week, the terror group had killed at least 128 regime troops during an assault on government positions in Syria's vast Badiya desert.

According to SOHR, the death toll this month has reached 3,055 people, which is the highest monthly toll in 2017.

As many as 955 of the casualties were civilians, including 207 children under the age of 18 and 148 women over the age of 18.

The monitoring group noted that shelling by the Syrian government and Russian warplanes were behind the majority of the deaths.

The report from the group revealed that as many as 395 people, including 92 children and 71 women were killed in raids by Syrian and Russian warplanes and by the regime's helicopters in several areas of Syria.

It also found that 92 people including 22 children and 10 women were killed in shelling by the regime forces using rocket and artillery shells, missiles believed to be ground-to-ground, targeting and sniper bullets. A total of 282 people, including 68 children and 45 women were killed in airstrikes by warplanes of the international coalition.

This year, Syrian Christians have been able to celebrate some victories against ISIS following the liberation of previously captured territories.

In August, Syriac Orthodox Christians in the northeastern city of Hasakeh marked the inauguration of Archbishop Maurice Amseeh, who is the first bishop in four years.

The bishop said that he is looking forward to visiting the neighboring Deir Ezzor province after it is liberated from ISIS.

"As soon as Deir Ezzor is freed from terrorism, I will make a blessed trip there to start rebuilding both buildings and people," said Amseeh.

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