Tag Archives: Ma’loula

President Bashar al-Assad Visits Maaloula on Easter Day

President Bashar Assad, center right, looking at the damaged interior of a monastery in the ancient Christian town of Maaloula  April 20, 2014

President Bashar Assad, center right, looking at the damaged interior of a monastery in the ancient Christian town of Maaloula April 20, 2014

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visited the liberated town of Maaloula in Damascus countryside on Easter Day, wishing peace, security and amity to all of the country, state-run SANA news agency repoted.

During his visit to Maloula town, Assad inspected the Monastery of Saints Sergius and Bacchus and checked the damage and destruction caused to the monastery by the terrorist groups.

Syria's President Bashar Assad looking at icons as he visits a monastery in the ancient Christian town of Maaloula which his troops recently recaptured from rebels. April 20, 2014

Syria‘s President Bashar Assad looking at icons as he visits a monastery in the ancient Christian town of Maaloula which his troops recently recaptured from rebels. April 20, 2014

“No one, whatever their terrorism reached, can erase our human and cultural history,” Assad said as he was inspecting Mar Thecla Monastery.

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“Maloula will remain, along with other Syrian human and cultural landmarks, steadfast in face of the obscurantism and barbarianism of all those who are targeting the homeland,” he added.

Maaloula was liberated on Monday after targeting Al-Manar TV crew, leaving three killed and two other wounded.

Four Syrian army soldiers were also killed in the attack.

3 Assad visits Maaloula 5

al-Assad Visits Maaloula 
Christians celebrate EasterIn Damascus

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Nuns kidnapped in Syria’s Maaloula set free

Nuns, who were freed after being held by rebels for over three months, arrive at the Syrian border with Lebanon at the Jdaydeh Yaboos crossing, early March 10, 2014.

Thirteen Lebanese and Syrian nuns who were kidnapped by rebels from the historic Christian town of Maaloula in December have been released and are now returning back to Syria after traveling through Lebanon.

The nuns arrived in the village of Jdeidet Yabus on the Syrian side of the border with Lebanon late on Sunday.

Lebanon’s intelligence agency, General Directorate of General Security, earlier confirmed that the Orthodox nuns were freed and taken into Lebanese custody.

The nuns were transferred to the village of Arsal, western Lebanon, earlier in the week, the source told Reuters on Sunday.

Their whereabouts and condition remained unknown for over three months, with first reports of the abduction emerging in early December as Islamist rebels seized the ancient quarter of Maaloula, a predominantly Christian town and UNESCO heritage site in eastern Syria.

“What the Syrian army achieved in Yabroud facilitated this process,” Syrian Greek Orthodox Bishop Louka Khoury speaking to reporters at the border.

Kidnapped nuns arrive at Jdeidet Yabus on the Syrian side of the border with Lebanon after an arduous nine-hour journey that took them from Yabrud into Lebanon, and then back into Syria on March 10, 2014.

It is unclear exactly who had held the nuns and why they had been released now. However, the Syrian Observatory for human Rights, a monitoring group that largely sides with the opposition, identified the rebels who took the nuns as militants from the Nusra Front, an affiliate of Al-Qaeda and one of the radical groups fighting President Bashar Assad’s forces. Lebanon’s General Security Chief the head of Qatari intelligence were reported to have played a major role in the negotiations.

Earlier, the Nusra Front had reportedly been demanding the release of 500 militants held in Syria and Lebanon in return for the nuns, according to the Al-Mayadeen satellite channel.

The Observatory, as well as a rebel source, said that the release of the nuns had been agreed as part of a prisoner swap with scores of women held in President Bashar al-Assad’s jails.

“The deal is for the release of 138 women from Assad’s prisons,” the rebel source said, Reuters reports.

Syrian Greek Orthodox Bishop Louka al-Khoury told reporters that the release marks progress. “What the Syrian army achieved in Yabroud facilitated this process,” he said.

The nuns were kidnapped during fierce fighting between rebel forces and the Syrian army for control of strategic Damascus – Homs highway, which passes close to Maaloula.

Soon after being abducted, the nuns were moved to the nearby rebel-held town of Yabroud 20km away. The date for the release was reportedly set to coincide with a ceasefire in Yabroud, which began at sunset on Sunday.

Later in December a video of the nuns was broadcast on Al-Jazeera. A commentator said that the nuns were in good health and were waiting for their release to return to their convent in Maaloula, the Monastery of Mar Thekla. The video did not give any indication of where the nuns were.

Syria’s Christian minority has sometimes found itself caught in the middle of the fighting in the civil war, which, having started in March of 2011, is quickly approaching its third year and is becoming increasingly sectarian.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma pose for a group photo with orphans at the Mar Taqla convent in Maalula, 60 kms north of Damascus, on April 27, 2008.

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Islamist rebels seize part of ancient Syrian Christian town, take nuns captive .

Islamist fighters have captured the ancient quarter of Maaloula, a predominantly Christian town and UNESCO heritage site in Syria, and are holding captive several nuns and their mother superior from the St. Thecla Convent, SANA reported.

The state news agency said that attackers “committed acts of vandalism in the town’s neighborhoods and around the convent, attacking locals and targeting them with sniper fire.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said Monday that fighters from the al-Qaeda linked Nusra Front had captured the old quarter of Maaloula after several days of fierce fighting. However, they said they could not confirm information regarding the convent.

The Observatory also reported that four rebels were killed in fighting in the area on Monday. Over the weekend militants tried to seize the town, but were fought off by the local militia forces and Syrian soldiers.

Maaloula has a population of about 5,000 and is strategically important to both sides because of its proximity to Damascus. It is also close to the strategic central highway that links the capital to Homs.

Maaloula was the scene of heavy fighting in September when it changed hands at least four times, with government forces eventually gaining the upper hand.

At the time residents told RT’s correspondent Maria Finoshina who was in Maaloula that Islamist rebels resorted to looting, executions and forcing residents to convert to Islam.

Maaloula is home to many UNESCO world heritage sites, such as shrines and monasteries, and is one of the birth places of Christianity. It is also one of the few places in the world where Western Aramaic is still spoken, a biblical language similar to what Jesus would have spoken.

“In this town are situated some of the most ancient churches and shrines, which are sacred for Christian believers,” said the Russian Foreign Ministry in a statement in September.

Islamist rebels seize part of ancient Syrian Christian town, take nuns captive — RT News.