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Battle of Ma'loula
Part of the Syrian civil war
Maaloula 01.jpg
Overview of Ma'loula
Date4–15 September 2013
(1 week and 4 days)
LocationMa'loula, Syria
Result

Syrian Army victory[2][3]

  • The Syrian Army restores control of Maaloula[2][4]
  • Pockets of jihadist resistance remain in the surrounding mountains
Belligerents

Al-Nusra Front Syria-flag 1932-58 1961-63.svg Free Syrian Army
Ahrar al-Sham[1]

Qalamoun Liberation Front[1]

Syria Syrian Arab Republic

Commanders and leaders
Abu Mohammad al-Golani (brigade commander)
Abu Khaled (Baba Amr Revolutionaries Brigade commander)[5]
Unknown
Units involved
Unknown 67th Armoured Brigade
81st Armoured Brigade
155th Army Brigade
Strength
~400 3,000
Casualties and losses
19+ killed, 100+ wounded 8+ killed
At least three or five civilians executed[6] and six kidnapped[7] by Al-Nusra Jihadists


The Battle of Ma'loula was fought in September 2013, when rebel forces attacked the town of Ma'loula, a Christian town with an Assyrian/Syriac population that speaks Western Neo-Aramaic. The town is located 56 km to the northeast of Damascus, and built into the rugged mountainside, at an altitude of more than 1500 metres.

Background

According to the information from residents, Al-Qaeda linked jihadist Al-Nusra Front had been based in the mountains near the Safir hotel since March 2013. It was reported that the jihadists were harassing the Christian people of the village since then. It was also reported that a Christian farmer could not go up to the area to farm his land, located near the hotel, unless he was accompanied by a Muslim resident of the village.[8]

Jihadist attack

On 4 September, a truck driven by a Jordanian suicide bomber exploded near a checkpoint of the Syrian Army at the entrance of Ma'loula. The explosion gave the signal for the attack. The jihadists took control of the checkpoint, killing eight soldiers and disabling two tanks, according to opposition sources, while the Syrian Air Force led three raids against the checkpoint after its capture.[9][10] During the fighting, jihadists captured the Safir hotel and used it to fire in the direction of the community below.[11] At the end of the day, rebels took control of several segments of this historical town.[1]

Army counter-attack

On 6 September, the Syrian Army sent reinforcements, including tanks and armored personnel carriers, to regain control of parts of the town,[12] while the rebels retreated.[13] The Army reinforced the checkpoint that was attacked by the Jordanian suicide bomber, while fighting erupted around Ma'loula after the jihadists retreated.[14]

On 7 September, fighting resumed around Ma'loula after the Syrian army attacked jihadist fighters stationed in a hotel on a nearby hill.[15]

New jihadist attack

On 8 September, however it was reported jihadist forces had retaken Ma'loula after they received reinforcements and were able to force the Army to retreat from the town.[16] During the day's fighting, 18 jihadists were killed and 100 wounded.[17]

A resident of Ma'loula reported that the jihadists attacked Christian homes and killed several people. They also torched a church and looted another one, and threatened several Christian villagers with beheading if they did not convert to Islam.[6] Although, a local nun who spoke to the BBC denied reports of forced conversion and persecution of Christians.[18] Many of Ma'loula's residents fled,[6] while Muslim residents reportedly welcomed the entry of jihadist and insurgent forces. A woman from the village said to Lebanese media that her husband, a member of the town's militia, had his throat cut by Free Syrian Army jihadists.[19]

According to a jihadists brigade leader, the Army was still present at one of the entrances of Ma'loula.[20] At the end of the afternoon, the Army and the People's Committee militia were fighting jihadists to regain control of the town with clashes around Ma'loula and in the neighbouring Jarajafa area.

New Army counter-attack

On 9 September, Syrian Army troops launched an offensive to retake the town and jihadist-held position on the surrounding hills. From the 3,300 inhabitants of the town, only 50 had remained during the fighting, according to a resident who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals from jihadists. A church was burnt in the western part of the village.[21] Some residents affirm that their families had been forced to leave the town by the jihadists,[22] while others said that jihadists forced one person to convert to Islam at gunpoint and executed another.[23]

On 10 September, jihadist forces declared their withdrawal from Ma'loula under the condition that the Army and pro-government militias would also not enter the town.[24] However, by the next day, jihadists had not retreated and fighting inside the town was still ongoing.[25][26] Later in the day, SOHR reported that government forces had captured large parts of the town.[27]

On 15 September, the military secured Ma'loula.[2]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Syrian Christian Village Besieged By Jihadists - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East". Al-Monitor. http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/security/2013/09/syria-christians-maaloula-jihadists-opposition-army.html. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Syria gov’t gains Christian site Maaloula
  3. Robert Fisk in Damascus: Assad's troops may be winning this war in Syria's capital - untouched by Obama's threats
  4. "RT live report: Syrian Army battles jihadists in ancient Christian village — RT News". Rt.com. http://rt.com/news/syria-christian-village-freed-711/. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  5. Syria rebels withdraw from ancient Christian town of Maaloula
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Activists: Syrian rebels take Christian village". Daily Star. 8 September 2013. http://dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2013/Sep-08/230467-activists-syrian-rebels-take-christian-village.ashx#axzz2e3LuqrzW. Retrieved 8 September 2013. 
  7. Battle for Syria Christian town of Maaloula continues BBC, 11 September 2013
  8. The Telegraph. Syria crisis: al-Qaeda seizes village that still speaks the ancient language of Christ
  9. "Des islamistes s’emparent d’une entrée de Maaloula | Moyen Orient et Monde | L'Orient-Le Jour". Lorientlejour.com. http://www.lorientlejour.com/article/831513/des-islamistes-semparent-dune-entree-de-maaloula.html. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  10. Jihadist rebels, Assad loyalists fight for control of Syrian countryside
  11. "Syrian Rebels And Army Battle Over Regime-Held Christian Village Of Maaloula". Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/05/syria-battle-maaloula_n_3872906.html. 
  12. "Syria sends reinforcements to Christian village Maaloula". GoUpstate.com. http://www.goupstate.com/article/20130906/WIRE/130909831/1051/news01?Title=Syria-sends-reinforcements-to-Christian-village-north-of-Damascus&tc=ar. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  13. "Christians in delicate position after rebels briefly capture Syrian town". Trust.org. 2013-09-06. http://www.trust.org/item/20130906020754-2q6u8/?source=hpbreaking. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  14. Friday 6 September 2013
  15. "Syrie : reprise des combats près d'une ville chrétienne au nord de Damas | Dernières Infos | L'Orient-Le Jour". Lorientlejour.com. http://www.lorientlejour.com/article/831943/syrie-reprise-des-combats-pres-dune-ville-chretienne-au-nord-de-damas.html. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  16. "Syria Live Blog - Al Jazeera Blogs". Blogs.aljazeera.com. http://blogs.aljazeera.com/liveblog/topic/syria-153. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  17. Syria: Maaloula's Mother Superior Rejects Claims of Rebels Pillaging Monastery
  18. "Christian villagers cast doubt on Syria jihadist ‘threat’". BBC. 18 September 2013. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-24148322. Retrieved 21 November 2013. 
  19. "Jihadists force Syria Christian 'to convert at gunpoint'". The Daily Star. 11 September 2013. http://dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2013/Sep-11/230872-jihadists-force-syria-christian-to-convert-at-gunpoint.ashx#axzz2eedb8z9n. Retrieved 11 September 2013. 
  20. "En Syrie, Maaloula devient "un village fantôme" | À La Une | L'Orient-Le Jour". Lorientlejour.com. http://www.lorientlejour.com/article/831990/en-syrie-maaloula-devient-un-village-fantome.html. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  21. "Syrian army moves to retake Maaloula". Daily Star (Associated Press). 10 September 2013. http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2013/Sep-10/230680-syrian-army-moves-to-retake-maaloula.ashx#axzz2eXe50KpU. Retrieved 11 September 2013. 
  22. "Syria crisis: Maaloula resident talks to BBC's Jeremy Bowen". BBC. 9 September 2013. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-24022511. Retrieved 11 September 2013. 
  23. Syrian rebels to retreat from Christian town of Maaloula France 24, 11 September 2013
  24. Syria rebels announce withdrawal from Christian town
  25. "Syrie : les rebelles toujours à Maaloula". Le Point (AFP). 11 September 2013. http://www.lepoint.fr/monde/syrie-les-rebelles-toujours-a-maaloula-11-09-2013-1723099_24.php. Retrieved 11 September 2013.  (French)
  26. Battle for Syria Christian town of Maaloula continues
  27. "Reef Dimashq: Violent clashes are taking... - Syrian Observatory for Human Rights". Facebook. Archived from the original on 2013-09-11. https://archive.is/DdIPQ. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 

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