Syrian rebels have withdrawn from an ancient Christian town north of Damascus after the Syrian government sent tanks and other reinforcements.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Free Syrian Army said Friday rebels captured and destroyed military positions during a battle outside the town of Maaloula.
Militias supporting the government of President Bashar al-Assad remain in control.
The battles in the town this week spotlighted the delicate position of members of Syria's Christian minority, who have been protected in Maaloula by Assad forces. Residents fear al-Qaida-linked fighters in the rebel faction will try to destroy the community.
More than 100,000 civilians have died in the civil conflict, with another four million Syrians displaced within the country. About two million have fled to the neighboring countries of Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq.