Battle of Ma'loula

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Battle of Ma'loula
Part of the Syrian civil war
Maaloula 01.jpg
Overview of Ma'loula
Date 4–15 September 2013
(1 week and 4 days)
Location Ma'loula, Syria
Result Syrian Army Victory
  • Rebels recapture Ma'loula in December
  • Syrian army begins operation to recapture the town
Belligerents
Al-Nusra Front

Flag of Syria (1932-1958; 1961-1963).svg Free Syrian Army
Ahrar ash-Sham[1]
Qalamoun Liberation Front[1]

Syria Syrian Arab Republic

Hezbollah

Commanders and leaders
Abu Mohammad al-Golani (Al-Nusra Front commander)
Abu Khaled (Baba Amr Revolutionaries Brigade commander)[2]
Units involved
Unknown 3rd Armoured Division
  • 81st Armoured Brigade

11th Armoured Division

  • 67th 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[3] and six kidnapped[4] by Al-Nusra Jihadists

The Battle of Ma'loula was a battle of the Syrian Civil War 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[edit]

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.[5]

Timeline[edit]

  • 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.[6][7] During the fighting, jihadists captured the Safir hotel and used it to fire in the direction of the community below.[8] At the end of the day, rebels took control of several segments of this historical town.[1]
  • On 6 September, the Syrian Army sent reinforcements, including tanks and armored personnel carriers, to regain control of parts of the town,[9] while the rebels retreated.[10] The Army reinforced the checkpoint that was attacked by the Jordanian suicide bomber, while fighting erupted around Ma'loula after the jihadists retreated.[11]
  • On 7 September, fighting resumed around Ma'loula after the Syrian army attacked jihadist fighters stationed in a hotel on a nearby hill.[12]
  • 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.[13] During the day's fighting, 18 jihadists were killed and 100 wounded.[14] 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.[3] Although, a local nun who spoke to the BBC denied reports of forced conversion and persecution of Christians.[15] Many of Ma'loula's residents fled,[3] 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.[16] According to a jihadists brigade leader, the Army was still present at one of the entrances of Ma'loula.[17] 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.
  • 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.[18] Some residents affirm that their families had been forced to leave the town by the jihadists,[19] while others said that jihadists forced one person to convert to Islam at gunpoint and executed another.[20]
  • 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.[21] However, by the next day, jihadists had not retreated and fighting inside the town was still ongoing.[4][22] Later in the day, government forces had captured large parts of the town.[23][24][25][26]
  • On 15 September, the military secured Ma'loula.[27]
  • On 29 November, a coalition of rebels including Jabhat al-Nusra swept into Ma'loula from the surrounding hills after rolling explosive laden tires onto government forces below.[28] During the proceeding weekend, twelve nuns from the Greek Orthodox monastery of Mar Takla are kidnapped and taken toward the border town of Yabroud.[28][29] At the time the kidnappers claim they are not abducting the nuns, however two months later the nuns are ransomed in exchange for government held prisoners. The number of prisoners exchanged is contested. The government has said 25 prisoners were exchanged while their opposition has stated the number is 150.[30]
  • On 14 April 2014, with the help of Hezbollah the Syrian Army once more took control of Ma'loula. This government success occurs among a string of other successes in the strategic Qalamun region, including the seizure of the former rebel bastion of Yabrud in the previous month.[31][32]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Syrian Christian Village Besieged By Jihadists". Al-Monitor. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  2. ^ Syria rebels withdraw from ancient Christian town of Maaloula
  3. ^ a b c "Activists: Syrian rebels take Christian village". Daily Star. 8 September 2013. Retrieved 8 September 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Battle for Syria Christian town of Maaloula continues BBC, 11 September 2013
  5. ^ The Telegraph. Syria crisis: al-Qaeda seizes village that still speaks the ancient language of Christ
  6. ^ "Des islamistes s’emparent d’une entrée de Maaloula". Lorientlejour.com. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  7. ^ Jihadist rebels, Assad loyalists fight for control of Syrian countryside
  8. ^ "Syrian Rebels And Army Battle Over Regime-Held Christian Village Of Maaloula". Huffington Post. 5 September 2013. 
  9. ^ "Syria sends reinforcements to Christian village Maaloula". GoUpstate.com. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  10. ^ "Christians in delicate position after rebels briefly capture Syrian town". Trust.org. 2013-09-06. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  11. ^ Friday 6 September 2013
  12. ^ "Syrie : reprise des combats près d'une ville chrétienne au nord de Damas". Lorientlejour.com. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  13. ^ "Syria Live Blog - Al Jazeera Blogs". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  14. ^ Syria: Maaloula's Mother Superior Rejects Claims of Rebels Pillaging Monastery
  15. ^ "Christian villagers cast doubt on Syria jihadist ‘threat’". BBC. 18 September 2013. Retrieved 21 November 2013. 
  16. ^ "Jihadists force Syria Christian 'to convert at gunpoint'". The Daily Star. 11 September 2013. Retrieved 11 September 2013. 
  17. ^ "En Syrie, Maaloula devient "un village fantôme"". Lorientlejour.com. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  18. ^ "Syrian army moves to retake Maaloula". Daily Star (Associated Press). 10 September 2013. Retrieved 11 September 2013. 
  19. ^ "Syria crisis: Maaloula resident talks to BBC's Jeremy Bowen". BBC. 9 September 2013. Retrieved 11 September 2013. 
  20. ^ Syrian rebels to retreat from Christian town of Maaloula France 24, 11 September 2013
  21. ^ Syria rebels announce withdrawal from Christian town
  22. ^ "Syrie : les rebelles toujours à Maaloula" (in French). Le Point (AFP). 11 September 2013. Retrieved 11 September 2013. 
  23. ^ Clashes in Maloula
  24. ^ Syrian rebels, Assad forces continue battle for Maaloula
  25. ^ Jihadis forced conversions in Maaloula, as UN reports on Syria war crimes
  26. ^ Syria troops pursue rebels in Maalula
  27. ^ Syria gov’t gains Christian site Maaloula
  28. ^ a b http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2013/Dec-03/239752-damascus-blast-kills-four-as-rebels-take-christian-town.ashx?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=%2AMideast%20Brief&utm_campaign=Mideast%20Brief%2012-3-2013#axzz2mJyJ0XuM
  29. ^ http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/03/syrian-opposition-fighters-seize-nuns
  30. ^ http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/03/syria-says-only-25-free-exchange-nuns-2014311112824871147.html
  31. ^ http://news.yahoo.com/syria-army-retakes-christian-town-maalula-090238420.html
  32. ^ http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-27025022