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    » 09/11/2013, 00.00

    SYRIA

    Maaloula: Christians say announcement of withdrawal by Islamic rebels is false



    A spokesman for the Free Syrian Army claim its forces evacuated the town in order to avoid bloodshed. Sources tell AsiaNews deny the report, saying terrorists are still entrenched in the town. With many residents are still holed up in their homes, Islamists are not letting anyone escape. In Damascus, hundreds of people attend the funerals of three young Catholics from Maaloula killed by Islamists.

    Maaloula (AsiaNews) - The Free Syrian Army (FSA) announced that it withdrew its fighters from Maaloula in order to avoid bloodshed among civilians. Christian residents have denied the claim, saying that "Islamists have not left the city. The statement is false and only serve to turn away media attention."

    Sources told AsiaNews that the city is now almost deserted (pictured), but "with several families still trapped in their homes due to the crossfire between rebels and the regular army."

    "People that fled to Damascus," they added, "are working with the local church to bring aid or have at least news about relatives and friends in Maaloula. So far, after long negotiations with the leaders of the Islamic militias, Christians have recovered the bodies of three young Catholics killed by extremists on 7 September." Their funeral was held yesterday in the Greek-Catholic cathedral in Damascus in the presence of hundreds of people.

    The attack by Islamic extremists in Maaloula began on 5 September, and has become a symbol of the suffering of Christians in Syria.

    It also confirms the close cooperation between the FSA, which claims to be secular, and Islamic terrorists from the al-Nusra Front.

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is linked to the rebel cause, confirmed the presence of al-Qaeda fighters among the forces that invaded the town and desecrated the monasteries of Saint Tecla and Saint Sergius, destroying ancient fixtures and the crosses on their domes.

    A few days after the beginning of the devastation, which the FSA has denied, Maaloula Christians wrote a letter to the US Congress, denouncing the horrors committed by Islamist insurgents against the civilian population.

    "At 04.00 in the morning hour 05/09/3 Damascus, armed gangs of so-called Free Syrian Army, terrorists Jabhat al-Nosra, and criminals of the Islamic Caliphate of Iraq and M. East attacked our city," the letter said. They looted our "monasteries and churches, removing sacred images as they went on, ordering residents to abandon their religion to convert to Islam to save their life." (S.C.)

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    See also

    26/07/2013 SYRIA
    As UN reports more than 100,000 dead in Syria's civil war, opposition remains divided between Islamists and secularist
    Nearly two-thirds of the dead are civilians. Since the beginning of Ramadan, the month of peace, more than 2,000 people have been killed. The Free Syrian Army, which wants a secular and democratic future for Syria, is fighting with Islamist insurgents, who want a future dominated by Sharia. Prospects for a peace conference remain dim.

    07/04/2015 SYRIA
    UN calls for humanitarian access to the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp
    The situation for the camp’s 18,000 refugees has been described as "beyond inhumane". Once opposed to Assad, the camp has seen groups realign with al-Nusra side with the Islamic State group, and Palestinians and the Free Syrian Army work with the Syrian army.

    04/01/2012 SYRIA
    Syrian crisis: Armed opposition threatens civil war
    Frustration is building over Arab League observers mission and its inability to stop the violence. This Saturday, League foreign ministers will meet. Head of Free Syrian Army Riad al-Asaad said his group would “escalate its operations” and make a “transformative shift” in the struggle.

    20/07/2012 SYRIA
    The battle for Damascus continues as rebels take over border posts
    With 302 deaths, yesterday was the worst day since the start of the uprising. Syria's national security chief was among the dead. Rebels seize border posts with Turkey and Iraq. After Russia-China veto at the Security Council, the UK and the US announce new initiatives in favour of the rebels. Moscow complains.

    22/03/2012 SYRIA
    Lebanese border village shelled as UN calls for a stop to the violence
    The village of al-Qaa is hit, wounding one person. The UN Security Council adopts a statement with Russia and China voting in favour.



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