Reconstruction ongoing in war-scarred Ancient City of Aleppo
admin • December 27, 2018 • 2987
Citadel of Aleppo | Reuters
Post-war reconstruction has been ongoing in the Ancient City of Aleppo since the Syrian government recaptured the city from opposition forces in December 2016.
It has been two years since fighting ended in Aleppo, once Syria’s economic hub, and the previous war zone has been recovering, albeit slowly, since reconstruction efforts were launched in the city.
The Citadel of Aleppo in the center of the Ancient City, which used to be on the front line, has now opened to tourists after renovation, and when weather permits, it even hosts cultural events.
“It’s actually beautiful and it’s really an achievement we really did that we took it back,” said a local of Aleppo, adding “It’s actually really beautiful and a real beautiful feeling that we can come here and visit it again.”
Around the citadel, many stores have reopened and street vendors have also started selling.
“I sell sweet corn around here and the business is good. I can sell a lot in summer and business is also quite good in winter,” said a local street vendor.
However, walking deeper into the historical heart of Aleppo, there still lie signs of destruction, with gutted buildings, walls pockmarked with bullet holes, and piles of rubble along the streets.
The reconstruction is ongoing, but it is expected to be a long process.
According to a deal reached between Russia and Turkey in September, a demilitarized zone has been set up on the border of the opposition-controlled area of Idlib. With Aleppo remaining a target of the militants, it is unlikely that a highway linking to Idlib will open by the end of the month.
But locals are still hopeful that peace will finally return to Aleppo and other parts of the country.
“I hope that Aleppo will never see any war again. We all hope so and we hope that Idlib will be also liberated as soon as possible,” said a vendor. — Reuters
Turkey and Russia agreed a ceasefire deal on Thursday (March 5) in Syria’s Idlib region, their two leaders said after talks in Moscow to contain a conflict which has displaced nearly a million people in three months.
Russia and Turkey back opposing sides in Syria’s nine-year conflict, with Moscow supporting President Bashar al-Assad and Turkey backing some rebel groups. Several previous deals to end the fighting in Idlib have collapsed.
The latest offensive in Idlib by Assad’s forces, backed by Russian air strikes, sparked what the United Nations says may be the worst humanitarian crisis yet in a war that has driven millions from their homes and killed hundreds of thousands.
The Russian military has, however, repeatedly played down any talk of a refugee crisis and accused Turkey of violating international law by pouring enough troops into Idlib to make up a mechanised division.
Turkey, which has the second largest army in the transatlantic NATO alliance, has funnelled troops and equipment into the region in recent weeks to resist the Syrian government advance and prevent a wave of refugees over its southern border.
Russia also raced to reinforce its troops in Syria by sea and air before the Putin-Erdogan talks.
Assad himself has vowed to recapture “every inch” of Syrian territory, but his depleted military depends heavily on Moscow’s power and Iranian-backed militias on the ground. Iran was not a party to Thursday’s deal.
Speaking on Russian TV channel Russia 24, Syrian President, Bashar Al-Assad said the Russian-Syrian plan was to normalise relations with Turkey, despite their aggressive behaviour.
“Our common goal with Russia was and remains to make Turkey change its policy from the support of the terrorists and to bring our relations back to normal.” Assad said,”For us and for you (Russia), Turkey is a neighbour state, it would be natural to have normal relations with a neighbour state.
The fighting, which raised the prospect of a direct clash between Russia and Turkey, has killed around 60 Turkish troops in the region since last month. Two hours after the joint announcement Turkey’s defence ministry said two soldiers were killed after Syrian government forces opened fire in Idlib.
Putin expressed his regret to Erdogan about the recent killing of 34 Turkish troops in an air strike, saying the Syrian military had not known of their location.
Ahead of the talks, at least 16 civilians were killed when Russian air strikes hit a gathering of displaced people near the town of Maarat Misrin in Idlib, according to civil defence workers helping clear the rubble and search for survivors.
Russia denies targeting civilians.
Turkey hosts some 3.6 million Syrian refugees and says it cannot handle more. Seeking to extract more funding and support from Europe over Idlib, Ankara said last week it would no longer abide by a 2016 deal in which it stopped migrants crossing into the European Union in return for billions of euros in aid. (Reuters)
Thousands of displaced Syrians stranded at the border with Turkey say they have nowhere to go but Turkey and then hopefully on to Europe.
Men, women and children have fled escalating violence in Idlib to displaced persons camps in border-towns like Atmeh, where the Turkish border is blocked off by an imposing grey concrete wall topped with barbed wire.
“The only solution before us is to enter Turkey, and from Turkey to Europe – any country that we can go to,” said 33-year-old displaced Syrian, Amer al-Ahmed on Wednesday (March 4). “We have nowhere else to go.”
U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock, said on Tuesday (March 3) that the number of displaced people has surged to 980,000, more than half of them children, who are now coping with inadequate shelter and a lack of sanitation facilities in areas near the Turkish border.
“Everyone wants to go to Europe because the situation is tragic here,” said Ahmed al-Khaled, 36, adding that he hopes the borders are opened.
Escalating military action by Russia and Turkey in Idlib risks a direct confrontation between the two major foreign powers in Syria’s war, days ahead of a summit of their leaders to hammer out a deal to halt the fighting.
Both countries say they hope to avoid a head-on clash, but after Turkey ramped up attacks on Russian-backed Syrian forces and Russian military police helped secure a town seized from Turkey-backed rebels, all sides acknowledge the risk.
Turkey, which has sent thousands of troops and military hardware into Idlib to confront Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, hosts 3.6 million Syrians and has closed its border saying it cannot take in more migrants. (REUTERS CONNECT)
A SyrianAir passenger plane landed on Wednesday (February 19) at Aleppo’s civilian airport, the first scheduled flight to touch down in the country’s war-devastated economic hub for eight years.
The reopening of the airport comes days after the Russian-backed Syrian army said it had seized rural areas northwest of Aleppo, a major strategic gain in weeks of bombing of the last rebel bastion in northwestern Syria.
On an organized trip, local and international media were invited by the Syrian transportation ministry to travel on the first plane that took off from the capital Damascus, and land at the Aleppo airport.
Government officials hope the resumption of commercial flights will help revive the economic activity in the city, which was the scene of some of the most vicious fighting of the war between 2012 and 2016. Rebel-held eastern Aleppo was regained by government forces in 2016.
Transport Minister Ali Hammoud said authorities were waiting for approvals to resume international flights, with plans to reopen the route to Cairo next month.
Aleppo’s other airport Nairab is a major military base that the Syrian air force uses to strike opposition areas and has also been a target of Israeli strikes on alleged Iranian bases.
In another strategic gain for President Bashar al-Assad, Syrian government forces aided by Iranian-backed militias consolidated their control over the M5 highway linking Aleppo to Damascus, a vital trade artery in northern Syria.
The highway, the fastest route between Syria’s two biggest cities, should be ready for civilian use in the coming days for the first time in years, the authorities said. (Reuters)
(Production: Firas Makdesi, Kinda Makieh, Michael Fiorentino)
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