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First Syrians to return to Palmyra

April 9, 2016

Hundreds of displaced residents of Palmyra have returned to inspect their houses for the first time since the "Islamic State" was ousted from the city. But the former tourist destination is still dangerous.

Civilians returning to Palmyra (Photo: AFP)
Image: Getty Images/AFP/L. Beshara

On Saturday, ten months after fleeing the ancient city of Palmyra, many residents arrived on government-run buses from the provincial capital, Homs, where they had sought shelter from the "Islamic State" (IS).

It was their first opportunity to inspect their houses after the Russian-backed Syrian army recaptured Palmyra on March 27.

According to local authorities, about 3,000 families had fled Palmyra, a former key tourist destination with 2,000-year-old temples and ancient ruins listed by UNESCO. IS destroyed some of the monuments and used ancient amphitheaters for brutal public executions.

Many apartment blocks and houses have partially collapsed, the news agency AFP reported. Others have been completely demolished.

"The first thing I checked in the house was the roof," 68-year-old Khudr Hammoud told AFP.

"The walls, the windows and the door are also still there, and that's enough for me to get my family ready to return to Palmyra," he said.

A local official told AFP that residents would not be allowed to spend the night in Palmyra until infrastructure was repaired and demining operations were completed. Speaking on condition of anonymity, he also added that there was no water and electricity in Palmyra.

"We will need at least three weeks to rehabilitate the city's infrastructure to the extent that residents will be able to spend the night in their homes," he said.

das/rc (AFP, EFE)

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