Al Qaeda linked rebel fighters seized control of a predominantly Christian village to the northeast of Damascus Monday. After heavy fighting, Syrian rebels took over Maaloula, a village with an ancient Christian heritage. Residents describe the fierce battles in the streets and the shouting of “Allah Akbar” as the rebel fighters descended on the city and began attacking Christian homes and churches.
“They shot and killed people. I heard gunshots and then I saw three bodies lying in the middle of a street in the old quarters of the village,” the resident said by telephone. “So many people fled the village for safety.” Now, he said, Maaloula “is a ghost town. Where is President Obama to see what befallen on us?” asked the man, who fled the village on Sunday. He declined to give his name out of fear for his safety. Another resident who escaped earlier in the day said Assad’s forces were deployed on the outskirts of the village, while gunmen inside refused to allow anybody in. He said that one of the churches, called Demyanos, had been torched and that gunmen stormed into two other churches and robbed them. A third resident reached by phone said he saw militants forcing some Christian residents to convert to Islam. “I saw the militants grabbing five villagers Wednesday and threatening them: ‘Either you convert to Islam or you will be beheaded,'” he said.
Senator John McCain and Secretary of State John Kerry are pushing hard for US involvement on behalf of Al Qaeda affiliated FSA fighters. Secretary Kerry is now championing an “unbelievably small” strike on the government of al Assad over allegations that the regime used chemical weapons against the Syrian people.