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After Maaloula, Syrian army heads to Zabadani

The Syrian army has taken control of Maaloula, and seems to be on the verge of recovering most of the region linking Damascus to Lebanon.
Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad are seen in the Qalamoun mountains north of Damascus, in this handout photograph distributed by Syria's national news agency SANA on December 27, 2013. Syria's army ambushed Islamist fighters in the Qalamoun mountains north of the capital Damascus on Friday, leaving as many as 60 people dead, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The attack happened between the Christian town of Maaloula and the town of Yabroud, where government forces and rebels are
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The armed opposition in the Qalamoun region continues to be beaten down. The army of the Syrian regime is continuing to advance in the region that separates Syria from Lebanon. On the morning of April 14, the Syrian army entered the village of Maaloula after the last of the armed opposition left. Maaloula is a small town about 20 km (12.5 miles) northwest of Damascus. Maaloula’s importance lies in being a Christian village with ancient religious ruins and a special symbolism for the Christians of Syria. Prominent sites include the Mar Taqla Monastery and the Saints Monastery, which has a rare collection of ancient Byzantine icons.

Maaloula had been occupied by armed opposition forces affiliated with Sunni fundamentalists since last September. The famous nuns of Mar Taqla were captured on Dec. 3, 2013, and released on March 9. The comment of the Melkite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and All the East Gregory III Laham regarding the Syrian army taking Maaloula on April 14 was noteworthy; he greeted the Syrian army and said that Maaloula will raise its crosses again.

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