Thousands of Syrians Start Returning to Daraya, Damascus

Published August 29th, 2018 - 01:32 GMT
Thousands of Syrians began returning to Daraya on Tuesday, state media said, for the first time since government forces clawed back the Damascus suburb from rebels two years ago.

The town was one of the major centers of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad and suffered massive damage during the fighting, forcing most of its people to leave.

Assad’s military and its allies regained control of Daraya after years of bitter siege and bombing. Many who did not want to live under state rule left along with rebel fighters under a surrender deal in August 2016.

Civilians and fighters who feared state rule were bussed out to insurgent territory in the north, while others - who most likely are those now returning to the town - were displaced to government territory around the capital.

Displaced people were returning after Daraya was “purged of remnants of the terrorists and the main services were reinstated”, state TV said.

State news agency SANA showed pictures of crowds gathering under large government flags and photos of Assad. Behind them, rows of buildings, their windows blown out, appeared pitted with shellholes and showed heavy damage from fighting.

Russia's defense minister said on Tuesday that war-torn Syria would be ready to accept one million returning refugees, following Moscow-backed reconstruction work.

"Since 2015, when towns and villages gradually started to be freed, more than one million people have returned home," Sergei Shoigu said in comments reported by Russian news agencies.

"Now every opportunity has been created for the return of roughly one million (more) refugees," he told journalists.

"Huge infrastructure reconstruction work is ongoing, the rebuilding of transport routes and security points so that Syria can begin accepting refugees."

Russia, a long-time ally of Syria, launched a military intervention in 2015 to support the Bashar al-Assad's regime, a move that changed the course of the war.

Assad and his allies have since recovered swathes of territory and the government is turning its attention to post-conflict reconstruction, with the aid of Moscow.

The war that erupted in 2011, one of the most devastating conflicts since World War II, has displaced more than half of Syria's population, including more than five million beyond its borders.

Most of them fled to neighboring countries, particularly Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump discussed the return of refugees at a summit in Helsinki last month.

Moscow later said it had put forward plans to Washington to cooperate on their return to Syria but details have yet to be confirmed.
This article has been adapted from its original source.

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