**NOTE: This video is supplied only for the sake of its current visuals (posted yesterday, 12-2). Neither I nor LevantReport endorse the specific military or political views expressed therein.**
Yesterday I raised concerns about early reports from the renewed combat in Maaloula. Sadly, confirmation of those initial reports has begun to emerge in today’s news cycle. Based on interviews with the Vatican’s ambassador to Syria, The Daily Star is confirming that up to 12 nuns have been abducted from the Greek Orthodox Monastery of St. Thekla and relocated, most likely to the village of Yabroud (about 30-45 min NW). AsiaNews adds some additional details of unstated source. Given that the Catholic Patriarchate is located less than half a mile from the Orthodox Patriarchate on the same street, there is a high probability that this statement came from credible information shared between the two churches.
The Daily Star article also cites claims by opposition forces that they entered the convent merely to protect the nuns from the hostile Assad regime. Given al-Nusra’s history of violence against Christians and the fact that they rained explosive-filled tires down on the village, this claim is patently absurd, especially given that Assad has a history supporting the Monastery and making personal visits. Most of the English-language news so far has ignored the preposterous element of rebel claims, but nevertheless taken then at their word that the nuns are still present at the Monastery, preferring to label them as hostages (cf. Bloomberg, Reuters, AP via Fox). Given the degree to which the western press agencies trust the pro-opposition activist Rami Abdulrahman, a.k.a. the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, for their information, it is possible that they are taking his agnostic approach to the initial conflict reports. Certainly they have copied his analysis, repeating that the assault is strategic, based on the need to control a major N-S freeway near the village. Had they bothered to check a map, they might have noticed that the village is separated from the freeway by a good 7 miles of winding, dusty road and that another village, Ayn At-Tina, stands far closer. Another 8 miles SW (though at a much lower, less strategic elevation), Qutayfeh lies directly adjacent to the freeway.
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Brief follow up. The Orthodox Patriarch has now given a public statement confirming the abduction of the nuns: http://www.antiochian.org/pray-nuns-maaloula-syria. Additional details can be found in the following AP story: http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_268782/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=XDofyhtf