Reconstruction ongoing in war-scarred Ancient City of Aleppo

admin   •   December 27, 2018   •   2728

 

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

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Syria’s Aleppo airport receives first scheduled flight in eight years

UNTV News   •   February 19, 2020

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)

Iran calls for unity to expel US from Middle East during visit by Syrian PM

UNTV News   •   January 14, 2020

Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis delivers an address during the opening of the Damascus International Fair on Sept. 6, 2018, in Damascus, Syria. EPA-EFE FILE/Youssef Badawi

By Marina Villen

Tehran – Iranian authorities on Monday called on the region’s countries to unite to expel US troops from the Middle East during a visit to Tehran by a Syrian delegation headed by Prime Minister Imad Khamis.

Khamis’s presence in Iran was significant because the Islamic Republic has backed the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in its war against the armed opposition and insurgent groups, support that mostly came via Gen. Qasem Soleimani, who was recently killed in a US drone strike in Iraq.

“As long as US terrorist forces are present in West Asia, the region will not achieve peace or security,” Ali Shamkhani, an influential official who serves as secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, told the Syrian prime minister.

To end this situation, Shamkhani said that “the withdrawal of the US will happen through the unity of the countries and governments of the region,” Iranian official state media reported.

“The presence and interference of the United States have caused instability, especially in Iraq and Syria,” Iranian First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri said.

The expulsion of US troops, therefore, is “the best revenge,” Jahangiri said.

Syria is part of the so-called Axis of Resistance against the United States and Israel led by Iran and comprised of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces militia and the Palestinian Hamas movement.

Iran and some of these groups vowed revenge for the killing of Soleimani in a US drone strike in Baghdad.

“Without a doubt, the martyrdom of Gen. Soleimani will make the Axis of Resistance more determined in its fight,” Shamkhani said.

The United States thought that Soleimani’s killing would lead to the “collapse of that front of the region,” Shamkhani said.

The Iranian general’s killing, however, led to “more cohesion and strengthening of the Axis of Resistance,” Shamkhani said.

Iranian Parliament speaker Ali Larijani expressed the same view during his meeting with Khamis.

As the head of the elite Quds Force, a branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Soleimani had for years spread Iran’s influence across the wider Middle East, strengthening Shia militias from Lebanon to Iraq.

Khamis posthumously awarded Syria’s highest military medal to Soleimani, noting that the honor reflected “the deep affection” of al-Assad for the late Iranian general.

The Syrian official also thanked Iran for its support in eradicating terrorism in Syria and called for strengthening economic and trade relations at a time when Iranian companies are seeking huge contracts to rebuild the Arab country.

Soleimani’s killing is “an example of the US conspiracies in the region,” the Syrian prime minister, who headed a delegation that includes Foreign Minister Walid al-Mualem and Defense Minister Ali Abdullah Ayyoub, said.

“The fight against the presence of US forces in the region must become a sustained process,” Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami said during a meeting with his Syrian counterpart.

Despite Soleimani’s death, “the path of resistance continues,” Hatami said.

In retaliation for Soleimani’s killing, Iran launched a missile attack on an air base in Iraq housing US troops, sparking fears of a wider conflict and leading countries that have good relations with Tehran and Washington to mediate in a bid to ease tensions.

The Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, visited Tehran on Sunday, while Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi tried to ease tensions in the region on Monday.

Qureshi, who is scheduled to travel to Saudi Arabia next, called for “maximum restraint and immediate steps” to resolve the crisis, advocating “dialogue and diplomacy.”

No one wants war, the Pakistani official said.

Iranian President Hasan Rohani said he welcomes “with pleasure, Pakistan’s efforts to promote regional peace and stability.”

The Islamic Republic “never tried to start a war,” the Iranian president said. EFE

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Death of Al-Baghdadi, not the end of ISIS — Malacañang

Marje Pelayo   •   October 28, 2019

People walk amound the rubble of destroyed buildings at the site that was hit by helicopter gunfire which reportedly killed nine people, including Abu Baker al-Baghdadi, the leader of IS or so-called Islamic State, near the village of Barisha, Idlib province, Syria, 27 October 2019 (issued 28 October 2019). EPA-EFE/YAHYA NEMAH

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang expressed relief in the recent demise of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi in Syria.

The Palace, however, acknowledged that such report couldn’t do much to resolve global terrorism involving the militant group ISIS.

“The death of a leader does not mean the extinction of that group,” noted Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

“Then again, it may also cause discouragement the on the part of the terrorist group. But as far as we are concerned, whether the leader dies or not, we will secure that part of our country from them,” he added.

Al-Baghdadi was reportedly killed in an operation initiated by the United States Special Forces in Syria.

No less than U.S President Donald Trump broke the news on Sunday (October 27) saying Al-Baghdadi detonated his suicide vest when US troops cornered him in a dead-end tunnel in Northwest Syria, in defiance to his impending arrest.

“Last night the United States brought the world’s number one terrorist leader to justice. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead,” Trump said in a televised speech.

“He reached the end of the tunnel as our dogs chased him down. He ignited his vest killing himself and the three children. His body was mutilated by the blast, the tunnel had caved in on it,” Trump added.

The terrorist leader’s identity was confirmed through a DNA test from the human specimen recovered in the blast site.

“The United States has been searching for Baghdadi for many years,” Trump continued.

“Capturing or killing Baghdadi has been the top national security priority of my administration. U.S special operations forces executed a dangerous and daring night-time raid in north-western Syria and accomplished their mission in grand style,” he added.

Trump expressed gratitude to the governments of Turkey, Russia, Syria and Iraq for their support to the success of the operation.

It was in 2010 when Al-Baghdadi started to lead the Islamic State carrying US$25M bounty on his head. — MNP (with inputs from Rosalie Coz)

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