Syrian regime forces have reclaimed the ancient Christian hamlet of Maaloula, near Damascus, and seized a rebel-held town near the border with Lebanon, agencies reported on Monday.
A security official told Agence France-Presse that the Syrian army retook Maaloula four months after mainly Islamist rebels overran it.
“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.
Maaloula fell to rebel forces in December, as the regime focused its attention on capturing towns along the Damascus-Homs highway.
The picturesque town is considered a symbol of the ancient Christian presence in Syria, and its 5,000 pre-war residents are among the few in the world who still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ.
When the town was taken by rebels, 13 nuns were forced from its convent and held by Al-Qaeda-affiliated fighters until a prisoner swap was initiated with the regime in March.
Meanwhile, Syrian state media said pro-government troops have seized a rebel-held town near the border with Lebanon, continuing a march to dislodge opposition strongholds from along the rugged frontier.
The SANA state news agency said Syrian forces took Sarkha early Monday, a day after seizing the nearby town of Rankous, the Associated Press reported.
Since November, forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad have captured several rebel strongholds in the mountainous Qalamoun area along the border with Lebanon.
The frontier region has long served as a vital supply line into Damascus for the opposition.
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer