Syrian rebels capture historic Christian town

December 04, 2013 - 6:33:31 am


Soldiers patroling in Tripoli, northern Lebanon, after taking over the security in the restive coastal city for six months.
DAMASCUS: Five people were killed yesterday in a suicide bombing in central Damascus, hours after rebels seized a historic Christian town north of the capital.

State television said the suicide attack in the Jisr Al Abyad neighbourhood killed five and injured 17, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it appeared to have targeted a government building.

The bomber had blown himself up at the entrance of an administrative building belonging to the army, which was used to facilitate aid to the families of soldiers killed in combat.

Footage of the scene broadcast by state television network Al Ikhbariya showed the ground littered with rubble and broken glass, and at least one body in front of the building.

North of the capital, rebels exchanged fire with government troops outside Maalula, a day after opposition forces captured the Christian hamlet in the strategic Qalamoun region.

The small town is renowned as a symbol of the long Christian presence in Syria and is famous for the fact that many residents still speak the ancient language Aramaic, which Jesus is believed to have spoken.

Rebel forces, including the jihadist Al Nusra Front, swept into Maalula from the surrounding hills after rolling explosive-laden tires onto regime troops below. Most of Maalula’s 5,000 residents fled in September, when rebel forces first entered the town before being pushed back to its outskirts by the Syrian army.

Religious officials said 12 nuns were taken from a convent in Maalula to the nearby rebel stronghold of Yabrud. It was not immediately clear whether the nuns had been kidnapped or merely evacuated for their own safety.

International aid agency Oxfam yesterday launched a “12 Days of Giving” appeal to help destitute Syrian refugee families in Jordan and Lebanon survive the region’s harsh winter months.

The UN children’s agency Unicef meanwhile warned of the danger posed by another tough winter to millions of children affected by Syria’s conflict, including some 1.2 million living as refugees in neighbouring countries.

AFP

Clashes continue; army arrests 21 fighters in Lebanon’s Tripoli 



TRIPOLI: Clashes resumed yesterday between Lebanese militias who back opposing sides of Syria’s war and 21 fighters were arrested by the army as it pursued a six-month-long mandate to end bloodshed battering the city of Tripoli.

The conflict between the majority Sunni Muslim Bab Al Tabbaneh district and the adjacent Alawite neighbourhood of Jebel Mohsen in Tripoli has killed over 100 people this year. But residents, fighters and a local politician said it was unlikely to end soon despite army efforts. The arrests come a day after the Lebanese authorities decided to place Tripoli, a city of some 500,000 people, under army control for six months. reuters

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