Father Dhiya Aziz was kidnapped by militants from Yacoubieh, Idlib Province, where he serves as parish priest on Sat 4th July. The militants were purportedly taking him for a brief meeting with the Emir who exercises authority in that area, which is under the control of the Al-Qaeda affiliate group, Jabhat al-Nusra.
The Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land report that no news has been received of Fr. Dhiya since his abduction. Some draw hope from the fact that two militants later returned to collect Fr. Dhiya’s medication. Some also draw hope from the fact that, in October 2014, Fr. Hanna Jallouf, Franciscan priest of the neighbouring parish of Qunayeh, was released along with several parishioners within a few days of their abduction by militants.
However, several church leaders abducted by militant groups in recent years remain unaccounted for. These include: Fr. Michel Kayyal (Armenian Catholic) and Fr. Maher Mahfouz (Greek Orthodox), abducted in February 2013; Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim (Syriac Orthodox) and Bishop Boulos Yazigi (Greek Orthodox), abducted in April 2013; Fr. Paolo Dall’Oglio (Jesuit), abducted in July 2013 – recent rumours suggest he may no longer be alive; and Fr. Jacques Mourad (Syriac Catholic), abducted in May 2015.
In north-east Syria, advances by Daesh (‘Islamic State’) militants in the city of Hassaka on 24th June led to further mass displacement, including of Assyrian Christian families, some of whom had fled to the city when their villages were over-run by Daesh in February.