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Syrian Christian village in crossfire as govt forces try to squeeze out Al Nusra rebels

Published time: September 07, 2013 14:57
Edited time: September 07, 2013 20:15

A Syrian rebel fires a heavy machine gun mounted on the back of a vehicle in Maaloula, a suburb of Damascus, in this image taken from a September 4, 2013 video footage obtained from a social media website (Social media website via Reuters TV)

Download video (28.47 MB)

Heavy fighting between rebels and regime forces continues in Syria’s predominately Christian village of Maaloula, which was earlier partially destroyed by Al-Qaeda affiliated rebels.

"There are clashes just inside the town in the western district between Popular Committees (militia) and rebel forces," director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdul Rahman, told AFP.

"There are also clashes between soldiers backed by militias and rebel fighters around the area of one of the entrances to Maaloula," he said.

State television citing a military source reports several rebels have been killed and their weapons destroyed as the army targeted a hotel and surrounding positions on the outskirts of Maaloula, north of Damascus, where a group of rebels were stationed.

Maaloula – a mountain village of 2,000 residents, 60km northeast of Damascus - is home to some of the most ancient Orthodox Christian relics and is a major pilgrimage destination. It’s 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.

An RT news crew traveled to the site, but was not allowed to enter the city for safety reasons. 

“The militants, around 300 people, hide [sic] in Safir hotel, there are ancient caves there under the village – they use them as well. They watch us – and we watch them, but if we start moving – they'll attack us. But unlikely before the sunset,” a Syrian army soldier told RT’s Maria Finoshina.

However, the opposition Syrian National Coalition said members of the Free Syrian Army had withdrawn from Maaloula earlier this week, after destroying army posts at Maaloula.

Earlier this week, reports indicated that militants had broken into the village and shelled Christian churches with mortars, the Surya al-Ain website reported. A fire broke out in the temple of the Holy Prophet Elijah, and the building suffered damage.

The National Coalition said they were in the area for several hours, "but did not attack any church or convent".
Meanwhile, the Syrian government sent reinforcements, including tanks and armored personnel carriers.


Government forces have taken up positions outside the village, Rami Abdul-Rahman said, adding that were clashes on Friday around the village, which is on a UNESCO list of proposed world heritage sites.

“The Syrian army plans an operation to clear Maaloula from Jabhat al Nusra rebels. There have been rumors that the rebels have left the village, but the army says they’re still there. Even if they leave Maaloula, they can hide nearby and return,” RT’s correspondent reports.

Earlier on Thursday, government war planes launched three air strikes on the checkpoint held by the rebels.

Until Wednesday, this mountain village of 2,000 residents near Damascus, had managed to remain mostly unaffected by the civil war that, according to UN estimates, has already claimed more than 100,000 lives.

Comments (20)

 

Mdasoh Kyaeppd 08.09.2013 14:32

Before you start burning books, check out the disparity between the antiquated Maya codices (background) and the modern-day result "the Mentinah Archives" (google cache.)

 

donriver 08.09.2013 10:26

Perhaps the US should look at energy self-sufficieny and exiting the ME since all they seem do there is F things up!

 

nuncius.mortis 08.09.2013 08:56

Smoke out these FSA and AL-whatever beheaders and murderers from face of the world. SAA real patriots and heroes!

View all comments (20)
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