aleppo residents return to districts seized by regime
Last Updated : GMT 05:21:58
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Last Updated : GMT 05:21:58
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Through the devastated streets of eastern Aleppo

Aleppo residents return to districts seized by regime

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Arab Today, arab today Aleppo residents return to districts seized by regime

Syrians walk through the former rebel-held Zebdiye district
Aleppo - Arab Today

"There's my house!" says Mohammad Sayyad.

"It's that red building," he says as he walks through the devastated streets of eastern Aleppo, seized by the army on Thursday.

Just hours after the last remaining rebels and civilians left the city on Thursday evening, he is returning to his neighbourhood of Zebdiye to find scenes of destruction.

Like thousands of others who fled to the regime-held west of Syria's second city in 2012, it is the first time he has seen his house in four years.

"Snipers were targeting us. Now I feel safe and, thank God, life is back to normal," Sayyad says.

Since 2012, the city has been divided between rebel and regime-held districts, but a devastating regime offensive launched in mid-October saw the rebels ousted from their iconic former stronghold.

In Bustan al-Qasr, a heavily damaged neighbourhood near Aleppo's famed Old City, yellow bulldozers remove the barricades that used to separate regime-held western Aleppo from the rebel-held east.

Hundreds of civilians, wrapped in coats against the bitter cold, walk along muddy roads, some pushing handcarts containing their meagre belongings.

Some struggle to find their homes in the war-torn streets, where children in colourful tracksuits play among the rubble.

"I can't find my shop," said Abu Abdu, standing in the middle of Zebdiye. "The streets are unrecognisable because of the destruction."

Some windows are smashed in, while others have been walled up with blocks of cement or bags of sand.

A family climbs over a mound of earth to reach the entrance of a building.

On the top floor, linen hangs on a balcony, abandoned by the occupants who were probably among those who were evacuated in recent days.

Nearby, a soldier scales an electric pole to hang the regime flag from on high.

At military checkpoints, the atmosphere is relaxed.

Before letting civilians enter, the army scours the area for bombs.

"I came to find my house. I was forced to move because of the intensity of the fighting near the Salahedin district," Khaled al-Masry says. "I hope my apartment is not too damaged."

"Three days ago I told my wife and my daughter that we would come back on Friday. I can't believe this moment has arrived," he says.

Not everyone has found their property intact.

"My shop in Al-Kalasseh is heavily damaged, it's completely empty," says one local, declining to give his name. "I wanted to go home but I can't because of army roadblocks."

Umm Abdo, 42, reached her house in Al-Mayssar to find it destroyed. "There's nothing left," she says. But, she adds, "houses can be rebuilt".

Hamid, 66 years old and blind, holds the hand of his 10-year-old grandson as they search for his house. 

The boy seems lost, despite Hamid's reassurances that he knows the way by heart. Every time they try a new route, their ways is blocked by barricades.

"Thank God I'm blind and I can't see all the destruction," says Hamid.

Source: AFP

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