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Nuns, Orphans Trapped in Syria's Maalula: Church

DAMASCUS (AFP) -- Nearly 40 nuns and orphans are trapped inside a convent in the Syrian Christian town of Maalula, where regime troops are battling rebel forces, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate said Tuesday.

The famed town, where residents still speak Aramaic, the language Jesus Christ is thought to have spoken, has been the scene of clashes since earlier this month.

"The Mar Takla convent is living through painful days because it is in the middle of the zone where fire is being exchanged, which makes getting supplies difficult and dangerous," the Damascus-based Patriarchate said in a statement.

"The generator has gone out because of the fighting, halting the supply of water to the convent and threatening the lives of those inside," the statement added.

It issued an "urgent appeal" to humanitarian groups to "ensure the necessary supplies to residents of the convent, nuns and orphans who number close 40 people."

The convent is located half-way between the hills of Maalula, which are still under rebel control, and the centre of the town, which has been retaken by the army.

Syrian opposition forces, including jihadist fighters, took control of Maalula on September 9.

Three days later, the Syrian army entered the town, seizing back parts, but failing to secure it entirely.

Picturesque Maalula, nestled under a large cliff, is considered a symbol of the Christian presence in Syria.

Since the fighting began in the town, most of its 5,000 residents have fled to neighbouring villages or to Damascus.


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