Breaking News Bar
updated: 9/6/2013 7:40 AM

Syria sends reinforcements to Christian village

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • This citizen journalism image provided by Aleppo Media Center AMC, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows damaged buildings due to heavy fighting Friday between Free Syrian army fighters and government forces in Aleppo, Syria.

      This citizen journalism image provided by Aleppo Media Center AMC, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows damaged buildings due to heavy fighting Friday between Free Syrian army fighters and government forces in Aleppo, Syria.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

BEIRUT -- The Syrian government has dispatched reinforcements including tanks and armored personnel carriers to a predominantly Christian village north of Damascus where rebels have clashed with regime troops this week, a monitoring group said Friday.

Opposition fighters led by an al-Qaida-linked rebel faction attacked the mountainside sanctuary of Maaloula on Wednesday, and briefly entered the village a day later before pulling out in the evening. The assault has spotlighted fears among Syria's religious minorities about the prominent role of Islamic extremists in the rebel ranks fighting to overthrow President Bashar Assad's regime.

Order Reprint Print Article
 
Interested in reusing this article?
Custom reprints are a powerful and strategic way to share your article with customers, employees and prospects.
The YGS Group provides digital and printed reprint services for Daily Herald. Complete the form to the right and a reprint consultant will contact you to discuss how you can reuse this article.
Need more information about reprints? Visit our Reprints Section for more details.

Contact information ( * required )

Success - request sent close

The government forces sent to Maaloula have taken up positions outside the village, which is still under the control of local pro-regime militias, said Rami Abdul-Rahman, the director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. He added that there were skirmishes Friday around the village, which is home to two of the oldest surviving monasteries in Syria -- Mar Sarkis and Mar Takla.

The assault is being spearheaded by Jabhat al-Nusra, one of the most effective rebel factions and a group the United States has deemed a terrorist organization. The group includes Syrians as well as foreign fighters from across the Muslim world.

The Syrian government has tried to emphasize the role of foreigners fighting on the rebel side as part of its narrative that the Assad regime is battling a foreign-backed conspiracy.

In that vein, Syrian state television said Friday the government is offering 500,000 Syrian pounds ($2,800) for turning in a foreign fighter, and 200,000 pounds ($1,150) for information about their whereabouts or assistance in their capture.

As the fighting continued on the ground inside Syria, President Barack Obama's administration forged ahead in its efforts to win congressional backing for military strikes against Syria over a suspected chemical attack on Aug. 21 outside Damascus. The U.S. accuses the Assad regime of being behind the attack, while Syria blames the rebels.

Obama on Friday was expected to use the last day of the Group of 20 economic summit in Russia to continue his quest to scrounge up foreign support for armed action. He has had little public success so far, with only France willing to take part in any military response.

The summit's host, Russia, is staunchly opposed to any Western action against Syria. The Kremlin has continued its decades-long alliance with Damascus throughout the civil war, backing Assad militarily, economically and diplomatically.

On Friday, the Russian state Interfax news agency said Moscow had sent another ship from the Black Sea to Syria. Citing an official at navy headquarters, Interfax said the landing ship left the Black Sea port of Sevastopol on Friday morning for the Eastern Mediterranean with "special cargo."

The Ministry of Defense was unable to confirm the ship's departure. Kremlin Chief of Staff Sergei Ivanov said Thursday that Russia is boosting its naval presence in the Mediterranean "primarily" to organize a possible evacuation of Russians from Syria. It is unclear how many ships Russia has there.

Reports of increased Russian naval presence near Syria have stoked fears about a larger international conflict if the United States carries out airstrikes.

In Damascus, the Syrian state news agency SANA said the speaker of parliament, Mohammad Jihad Laham, urged the U.S. Congress to engage in a "civilized" dialogue with Damascus rather than resorting to a dialogue of "fire and blood."

In a letter sent late Thursday to House Speaker John Boehner, Laham appealed to the U.S. lawmaker and his colleagues "not to rush into any irresponsible, reckless action."

Share this page
Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.
    help here