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RT live report: Syrian Army battles jihadists in ancient Christian village

Published time: September 11, 2013 12:12
Edited time: September 12, 2013 11:18

Fighting between Syrian government forces and Al-Nusra Front rebels for the village of Maaloula, northeast of Damascus, September 7. Still from RT video

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Sporadic fighting continues after Syrian government troops have regained control of the village of Maaloula, a center of Christianity in the region. RT’s correspondent reports from the village, amid the shooting and fighter jets overhead.

Despite the battle, RT’s crew made to the central square of Maaloula, the first time since they arrived in Syria on Saturday.

From there they headed towards Mar Takla (St.Thakla) - one of the two oldest surviving monasteries in Syria – on the edge of Maaloula.

On the way they were caught in crossfire during which the camera-man’s assistant received a mild injury.

“We were shooting a package. It was already dark and suddenly militants started to fire. We had to hide between houses. The situation was getting worse and worse. As a result, Kirill’s forehead was slashed by a ricochet,”
RT’s camera man said.

On Wednesday, Syrian government troops killed eight rebels and injured 20 others.

Inside the village fire was mainly targeting the mountaintop Safir Hotel, which the Al-Nusra Front militants seized last Wednesday. There were no militants inside, the army said, but some 200 jihadists are still hiding in the mountains that surround Maaloula.

“It’s still dangerous to be here, and this is why they [army] allow journalists here only before sunset,” Maria Finoshina reported. “According to the army there were local residents who were kept hostage in the basement of this hotel, but they are also free now,” she added.

The Al-Qaeda-affiliated fighters have carried out several attacks on Maaloula since last Wednesday.

On Saturday pro-Assad forces managed to regain control for a short period of time, however by in the early hours of Sunday morning militants had retaken the village.

That occasion also saw the RT crew come perilously close to the fighting.

“It’s hard to believe that what used to be one of the most significant shrines of the Christian community all over the world is a battlefield now,” Finoshina reported from the village on Saturday, her voice occasionally drowned out by the sound of gunfire.

Maaloula – a mountain village of 2,000 residents, 60km northeast of Damascus - is a major pilgrimage destination for Christians from around the world.

It’s home to some of the most ancient Orthodox Christian relics and is also one of the very few places in the world where people still speak Aramaic, a biblical-era language that Jesus is believed to have spoken.

Apart from being an ancient sanctuary on a UNESCO list of proposed World Heritage sites, Maaloula is also strategically important, situated on a highway between Damascus and Homs. The rebels have already established bases in the west and south of the capital. The village in the northeast would significantly increase rebel pressure on Damascus.

Fighting between Syrian government forces and Al-Nusra Front rebels for the village of Maaloula, northeast of Damascus, September 7. (Still from RT video)

Fighting between Syrian government forces and Al-Nusra Front rebels for the village of Maaloula, northeast of Damascus, September 7. (Still from RT video)

Comments (41)


Art Carvajal 17.09.2013 03:41

Syria is the battleground for who will control the middle east and the survival of the petro dollar..


ChickenHawkHanoiSquickingPiggy 12.09.2013 10:00

Le Ruscino 12.09.2013 07:03

Can America survive Obama?


I hope so, I still believe that real Americans are NOT Brooklyn elites and chicken hawks warmongers.


Live on your knees or die fighting 12.09.2013 08:45

There is the EDL (English defence League) who stands agaisnt the islamification of Britian - these people are not racists they allow anyone to join who fears the increasing rise of Sharia law in the UK. They also campaign against Islamic shools where hate is preached on a daily basis. They are really given a hard time by the police, constantly arrested whilst the Hate preachers such as Choudrey is given state benefits and hand outs such as rent to pay for his families home in London. These people burn the poppy in front of soldiers returning from Afghanistan in coffins, they call fo beheadings of infidels - be warned!

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