Report for al-Akhbar a secular Lebanese daily newspaper
Syrian forces retook the ancient Christian hamlet of Maaloula in Damascus province on Monday, four months after mainly Islamist rebels overran it, a security official told AFP.
"The army has taken full control of Maaloula and restored security and stability. Terrorism has been defeated in Qalamoun," the official said, referring to the region in which Maaloula is located.
The recapture comes after a string of successes in the strategic Qalamoun region, including the seizure of the former rebel bastion of Yabrud last month.
The main highway linking the capital Damascus to the city of Homs runs though Qalamoun, which lies along the border with Lebanon.
Maaloula fell to rebel forces last December, as the government focused its attention on capturing towns along the Damascus-Homs highway.
The Melkite catholic Patriarch Gregorios III gave prayerful thanks for Maaloula’s return to freedom and said no matter how damaged they will rebuild their monasteries.
Children attending the Palm Sunday services at the Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral in Damascus, Sunday 13th of April.
The Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East has released the following video of the remarks of Patriarch John X on Palm Sunday, April 13 2014, in Arabic with English subtitles.