By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent
DAMASCUS, SYRIA (Worthy News)– In their battle to topple the Assad regime, rebel jihadists of the Free Syrian Army have also looted religious sites in Northern Syria, according to Human Rights Watch.
The nearly two-year long conflict to oust President Bashar Assad has devolved into sectarian strife as Sunni rebels struggle against pro-government Shi'a Alawites and displaced Christians loyal to the regime.
Last year, a Shi'a religious site was destroyed in December after Sunni rebels took control of Zarzour village. The Sunnis later claimed that government forces torched the mosque before leaving town, but local residents disagreed.
Human Rights Watch confirmed that the damage done to the site was deliberate; windows were shattered, religious posters had been ripped off the walls and charred remains were found on top of each another on the floor, indicating that they were collected and then set ablaze.
In November, Sunni rebels looted Christian churches in two Latakia villages; after they captured Jdeideh, gunmen broke into the church, discharging their weapons and damaging its interior; they also took medicine from a church clinic, looted homes and kidnapped civilians.
In the village of Ghasaniyeh, rebels broke into a church and stole diesel fuel.
In August, the Syrian state news agency reported a massacre in Jandar village that killed mostly Alawites and Christians, and in June, thousands of Christians from Homs were forced to seek refuge elsewhere after jihadists of the Free Syrian Army issued an ultimatum for them to leave town, or die.
The Syrian Orthodox Church had complained about the systematic ethnic cleansing of Christians in Homs since March.