Government forces are in Maaloula, but there is still fighting going on. I’ve heard a lot of heavy fire and one or two large explosions as well. Their opponents from the al-Nusra Front – the armed rebel group that is allied with al-Qaeda – appear to still be in the town. I’ve seen about half a dozen wounded government soldiers driven back at speed towards their rear echelon.
I’ve spoken to some local members of the National Defence Forces, a pro-government militia. They say they are fighting for their town and the fact it was a place where Christians and Muslims once lived side by side. They say they are fighting against the people they regard as terrorists.
The town’s residents fled in a hurry to Damascus when the rebels first moved in. They are very upset and angry about what happened. Some told me that when they left, the al-Nusra Front desecrated some of their churches. There is quite a bit of damage to the town, but I can’t see considerable damage to the holy places. In fact, I can see a big statue of the Virgin Mary that is very much intact.
Free Syrian Army (FSA) units and members of the jihadist al-Nusra Front occupied Maaloula for several hours on Thursday before withdrawing when their positions were bombed by government warplanes.
Syria’s state SANA news agency uses the government’s preferred term “terrorists” to describe the rebels….
A Maaloula resident said the rebels, many of them sporting beards and shouting Allahu Akbar, or God is great, attacked Christian homes and churches shortly after moving into the village overnight.
“They shot and killed people. I heard gunshots and then I saw three bodies lying in the middle of a street in the old quarters of the village,” said the resident, reached by telephone from neighbouring Jordan. “So many people fled the village for safety.”
Now, Maaloula “is a ghost town. Where is President Obama to see what befallen on us?” asked the man, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal by the rebels.
According to one eye witness, five Christians were seized and told, “either you convert to Islam, or you will be beheaded.”
A Christian woman from the besieged town who had fled to Damascus tearfully told a BBC reporter about the Free Syrian Army & Al Qaeda Infestation, and begged Obama to stop sending them weapons “because they are killing us!” When asked what the rebels she saw terrorizing the town looked like, she said said they were wearing “Free Syrian Army” clothes. Those would be the “good guys”Obama has been arming. Note that they have been fighting right alongside the al Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front.
When the reporter asked her about Obama’s plan to punish the regime for killing civilians with chemical weapons, she cried, “no that’s wrong! It’s wrong!…it’s a big liar (sic) you can watch the video (this one?) and you can tell…”
We absolutely need to stay out of this war. My God, I’m rooting for the government forces Obama wants to bomb to beat back the rebels Obama’s been arming.