Fighting Continues as Syria Aims to Oust al-Qaeda From Christian Village

Fate of Locals Remains Uncertain

by Jason Ditz, September 09, 2013

Al-Qaeda faction Jabhat al-Nusra claimed victory in the battle over the Christian village of Maaloula this weekend, but the fighting continues in the area around the outskirts, as Syrian forces have attempted to move back into the town.

Nusra fighters began contesting the village early last week, capturing a hill-top hotel and using it as a base of operations to shell the neighborhoods below. Many of the civilians fled the town, but a large number reportedly took shelter in the St. Takla Convent hoping to wait out the attacks.

With reports of churches around the village coming under attack and locals facing forced conversion by al-Qaeda fighters, the head of the convent, Pelagia Sayaf, says that they continue to hear clashes and gunfire outside, but so far the convent itself hasn’t been attacked. They said they had no news from outside, however, and couldn’t confirm the fate of anyone else in the city.

A video from an unnamed rebel commander claimed they plan to withdraw from the village after blowing up the military post within, saying it was being used “to harm Muslims.” Still, there’s no sign of that happening yet, and Syria’s Christians are increasingly prepared to flee the country as the rebels approach their homes.

Last 5 posts by Jason Ditz