Syrian army launches offensive on historic Christian town

BEIRUT - Syrian government forces launched an offensive to wrest back control of an historic Christian town north of Damascus on Monday, activists said.
In the past six days, the town of Maaloula has already changed hands three times between President Bashar Assad's forces and rebel groups, some of which are linked to al Qaeda.
Combatants say the intensity of fighting over the town is due to its strategic location near the road leading from Damascus to the central city of Homs.
But fighting in an area with such religious symbolism could increase anxieties among the Christian minority, who have watched sectarian violence between majority Sunni Muslims and the Alawite minority overshadow the revolt against Assad's rule.
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