Jihadist rebels, Assad loyalists fight for control of Syrian countryside

Monday, September 9, 2013

By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

syriaDAMASCUS, SYRIA (Worthy News)-- In the battle for Syria between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and rebel jihadist factions, violent contests for the control of small Christian villages are often under-reported by the mainstream media.

Typical is Maaloula: this small mountain village 40 miles northeast of Damascus has become yet another battleground where al-Qaida-affiliated rebels have challenged the Assad regime for control of Syria's countryside.

Rami Abdul-Rahman, the director of the Britain-based Observatory for Human Rights, said that despite the presence of government troops, jihadists of Jabhat al-Nusra assaulted Maaloula Wednesday night when a suicidal jihadi detonated a car bomb at a government checkpoint at the village entrance.

The suicide bombing was followed by fierce fighting as rebels seized the checkpoint by disabling two tanks and killing eight government soldiers, according to Abdul-Rahman.

The rebels later took control of the Safir hotel on a nearby mountain top from where they reigned down fire upon Maaloula; some villagers took refuge inside the St. Thecla convent that already sheltered nuns and orphans.

Abdul-Rahman reported that there has been fighting between Assad's troops and the Nusra Front fighters in the mountains surrounding Maaloula after the rebels left the village Thursday morning.