Battle of Maaloula

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Battle of Maaloula
Part of the Syrian Civil War
Maaloula 01.jpg
Overview of Maaloula
Date4–15 September 2013
(1 week and 4 days)

Syrian Army victory[3][4]

  • The Syrian Army restores control of Maaloula[3]
  • Pockets of jihadist resistance remain in the surrounding mountains
Al-Nusra Front
Free Syrian Army
Ahrar ash-Sham[1]
Qalamoun Liberation Front[1]

Syria Syrian Arab Republic

Commanders and leaders
Abu Mohammad al-Golani (Al-Nusra Front commander)
Abu Khaled (Baba Amr Revolutionaries Brigade commander)[5]
Units involved

3rd Armoured Division

  • 81st Armoured Brigade

11th Armoured Division

  • 67th Armoured Brigade
155th Army Brigade
~400 3,000
Casualties and losses
19+ killed, 100+ wounded 8+ killed
At least three or five civilians executed[6] and six kidnapped[7] by Al-Nusra Jihadists

The Battle of Maaloula was a battle of the Syrian Civil War fought in September 2013, when rebel forces attacked the town of Maaloula, a Christian town with an Aramean population that speaks Western Neo-Aramaic. The town is located 56 km to the northeast of Damascus, and built into the rugged mountainside, at an altitude of more than 1500 metres.


According to the information from residents, Al-Qaeda linked jihadist Al-Nusra Front had been based in the mountains near the Safir hotel since March 2013. It was reported that the jihadists were harassing the Christian people of the village since then. It was also reported that a Christian farmer could not go up to the area to farm his land, located near the hotel, unless he was accompanied by a Muslim resident of the village.[8]


Jihadist attack[edit]

A rebel technical armed with a DShK fire at government forces during the first rebel attack on Ma'loula on 4 September.

On 4 September, a truck driven by a Jordanian suicide bomber exploded near a checkpoint of the Syrian Army at the entrance of Maaloula. The explosion gave the signal for the attack. The jihadists took control of the checkpoint, killing eight soldiers and disabling two tanks, according to opposition sources, while the Syrian Air Force led three raids against the checkpoint after its capture.[9][10] During the fighting, jihadists captured the Safir hotel and used it to fire in the direction of the community below.[11] At the end of the day, rebels took control of several segments of this historical town.[1]

Army counter-attack[edit]

On 6 September, the Syrian Army sent reinforcements, including tanks and armored personnel carriers, to regain control of parts of the town,[12] while the rebels retreated.[13] The Army reinforced the checkpoint that was attacked by the Jordanian suicide bomber, while fighting erupted around Maaloula after the jihadists retreated.[14]

On 7 September, fighting resumed around Maaloula after the Syrian army attacked jihadist fighters stationed in a hotel on a nearby hill.[15]

New jihadist attack[edit]

On 8 September, however it was reported jihadist forces had retaken Maaloula after they received reinforcements and were able to force the Army to retreat from the town.[16] During the day's fighting, 18 jihadists were killed and 100 wounded.[17] A resident of Maaloula reported that the jihadists attacked Christian homes and killed several people. They also torched a church and looted another one, and threatened several Christian villagers with beheading if they did not convert to Islam.[6] Although, a local nun who spoke to the BBC denied reports of forced conversion and persecution of Christians.[18] Many of Maaloula's residents fled,[6] while Muslim residents reportedly welcomed the entry of jihadist and insurgent forces. A woman from the village said to Lebanese media that her husband, a member of the town's militia, had his throat cut by Free Syrian Army jihadists.[19] According to a jihadists brigade leader, the Army was still present at one of the entrances of Maaloula.[20] At the end of the afternoon, the Army and the People's Committee militia were fighting jihadists to regain control of the town with clashes around Maaloula and in the neighbouring Jarajafa area.

New Army counter-attack[edit]

On 9 September, Syrian Army troops launched an offensive to retake the town and jihadist-held positions in the surrounding hills. From the 3,300 inhabitants of the town, only 50 had remained during the fighting, according to a resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals from jihadists. A church was burnt in the western part of the village.[21] Some residents affirm that their families had been forced to leave the town by the jihadists,[22] while others said that jihadists forced one person to convert to Islam at gunpoint and executed another.[23]

On 10 September, jihadist forces declared their withdrawal from Maaloula under the condition that the Army and pro-government militias would also not enter the town.[24] However, by the next day, the jihadists had not retreated and fighting inside the town was still going on.[7][25] Later in the day, government forces had captured large parts of the town.[26][27][28][29]

On 15 September, the military secured Maaloula.[3]


On 29 November, a coalition of rebels including Jabhat al-Nusra swept into Maaloula from the surrounding hills after rolling explosive laden tires onto government forces below.[30] During the proceeding weekend, twelve nuns from the Greek Orthodox monastery of Mar Takla were kidnapped and taken toward the border town of Yabroud.[30][31] At the time the kidnappers claimed that they were not abducting the nuns. However, two months later the nuns were ransomed in exchange for government held prisoners. The number of prisoners exchanged is contested; the government said 25 prisoners were exchanged while the opposition stated the number was 150.[32]

On 14 April 2014, with the help of Hezbollah, the Syrian Army once more took control of Maaloula. This government success was part of a string of other successes in the strategic Qalamoun region, including the seizure of the former rebel bastion of Yabroud in the previous month.[33][34]


  1. ^ a b c "Syrian Christian Village Besieged By Jihadists". Al-Monitor. Archived from the original on 2013-09-10. Retrieved 2013-09-14.
  2. ^ "The SSNP 'Hurricane' in the Syrian conflict: Syria and South Lebanon Are The Same Battlefield|Al-Akhbar in English". Archived from the original on 2016-09-27. Retrieved 2016-04-06.
  3. ^ a b c Syria gov’t gains Christian site Maaloula Archived September 27, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Robert Fisk in Damascus: Assad's troops may be winning this war in Syria's capital - untouched by Obama's threats
  5. ^ "Syria rebels withdraw from ancient Christian town of Maaloula". BBC News. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  6. ^ a b c "Activists: Syrian rebels take Christian village". Daily Star. 8 September 2013. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  7. ^ a b Battle for Syria Christian town of Maaloula continues BBC, 11 September 2013
  8. ^ "The Telegraph. Syria crisis: al-Qaeda seizes village that still speaks the ancient language of Christ". 5 September 2013. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  9. ^ "Des islamistes s'emparent d'une entrée de Maaloula". Retrieved 2013-09-14.
  10. ^ "Jihadist rebels, Assad loyalists fight for control of Syrian countryside". Worthy Christian News. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  11. ^ "Syrian Rebels And Army Battle Over Regime-Held Christian Village Of Maaloula". Huffington Post. 5 September 2013.
  12. ^ "Syria sends reinforcements to Christian village Maaloula". Archived from the original on 2013-09-27. Retrieved 2013-09-14.
  13. ^ "Christians in delicate position after rebels briefly capture Syrian town". 2013-09-06. Retrieved 2013-09-14.
  14. ^ "Friday 6 September 2013". Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  15. ^ "Syrie : reprise des combats près d'une ville chrétienne au nord de Damas". Retrieved 2013-09-14.
  16. ^ "Syria Live Blog - Al Jazeera Blogs". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 2013-09-14.
  17. ^ "Syria: Maaloula's Mother Superior Rejects Claims of Rebels Pillaging Monastery". International Business Times UK. Archived from the original on 17 October 2013. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  18. ^ "Christian villagers cast doubt on Syria jihadist 'threat'". BBC. 18 September 2013. Retrieved 21 November 2013.
  19. ^ "Jihadists force Syria Christian 'to convert at gunpoint'". The Daily Star. 11 September 2013. Retrieved 11 September 2013.
  20. ^ "En Syrie, Maaloula devient "un village fantôme"". Retrieved 2013-09-14.
  21. ^ "Syrian army moves to retake Maaloula". Daily Star (Associated Press). 10 September 2013. Retrieved 11 September 2013.
  22. ^ "Syria crisis: Maaloula resident talks to BBC's Jeremy Bowen". BBC. 9 September 2013. Retrieved 11 September 2013.
  23. ^ Syrian rebels to retreat from Christian town of Maaloula France 24, 11 September 2013
  24. ^ Syria rebels announce withdrawal from Christian town Archived September 23, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ "Syrie : les rebelles toujours à Maaloula" (in French). Le Point (AFP). 11 September 2013. Retrieved 11 September 2013.
  26. ^ "Clashes in Maloula". Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  27. ^ "Syrian rebels, Assad forces continue battle for Maaloula". UPI. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  28. ^ "Jihadis forced conversions in Maaloula, as UN reports on Syria war crimes". Al Akhbar English. Archived from the original on 2 February 2014. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  29. ^ "Syria troops pursue rebels in Maalula". 12 September 2013. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  30. ^ a b "Damascus blast kills four as rebels take Christian town". The Daily Star Newspaper - Lebanon. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  31. ^ "Syrian opposition fighters seize 12 nuns from Christian village". the Guardian. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  32. ^ "Syria says only 25 free in exchange for nuns". Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  34. ^ "BBC News - Syria rebels driven from Christian town of Maaloula". BBC News. Retrieved 25 October 2014.

Coordinates: 33°50′00″N 36°33′00″E / 33.8333°N 36.5500°E / 33.8333; 36.5500