Rebel forces have retaken the Christian village of Maalula. The village is located about an hour northeast of Damascus, Syria and is a symbol of Christian presence in Syria. It is one of the last places on Earth that the ancient language of Aramaic is spoken.
AFP quoted the watchdog group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights:
“Overnight, Syrian regime troops moved into the village, but rebel forces sent reinforcements and were able to take control of the entire town,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
A resident of the town, reached by phone, also confirmed that regime forces had withdrawn from the area and rebel forces were in control of Maalula.
It’s unclear whether the new siege has been joined by the Free Syria Army (FSA), the group that Sec. of State John Kerry called ‘moderate’ last week.
The FSA has admitted their involvement fighting alongside the al Qaeda rebels earlier in the week in Maalula. A press release on the English language section of the Syrian Coalition website said:
The FSA remained on the outskirts of the city of Maaloula for a few hours before they withdrew in order to save civilian lives and preserve the ancient cultural heritage of the city.
Breitbart News has previously reported that the Free Syrian Army posted videos of themselves attacking the city just one day after Sec. of State Kerry called them ‘moderate’ in a Senate hearing. One video shows the FSA shouting ‘Allahu Akbar!’ as they open fire in the Christian village.
After meeting with Pres. Obama last week, Free Syria Army booster Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) announced that Obama was prepared to give the FSA more weapons. As The Daily Beast reported:
Obama didn’t say which weapons he would give the rebels, but McCain said the Free Syrian Army needs antiarmor and antiaircraft weapons to shift the momentum on the ground to its side. He said if the administration gives him enough specifics about the new arms pledges, he’ll vote to authorize military action.
McCain also indicated the goal was to topple the Assad regime, saying:
“For the first time we have an outline of action that could lead to the removal of Bashar al-Assad,” McCain said. “I’m certainly willing to join in that effort, but I need to know a lot of the details.”
The rebel group that led the assault on Maaloula and now is in control of the village is eagerly awaiting Assad’s removal. A news report on the pro-Assad al Hadath News site describes the al Qaeda linked Al-Nusra Front group threatening ‘to avenge’ Christians after the “triumph of the revolution.”