From Palmyra to Al-Tanf: Inside Damascus’ Struggle to Win Back Syrian Desert

Traveling from Palmyra in central Syria to the border with Iraq and the so-called 55-kilometer “security zone” around the US base at Al-Tanf in the country’s south, journalist Mikhail Alaeddin surveyed the situation on the ground now that the Daesh (ISIS/ISIL)* caliphate has been smashed.

Palmyra at Peace

“On the road from the city of Homs to Palmyra I recall last year’s experiences. Today, the road is paved with descent asphalt, without pits or burnt-out cars on the roadside. Last spring, the day Palmyra was freed from the terrorists, after slamming into a pit from a mortar shell, my car lost a wheel,” the journalist recalled.

“At first glance, Palmyra has changed little. However, now, when you pass through the historical complex and the city itself, you see the signs of peaceful life which, like the buds on trees in the spring, hint at a coming flowering,” he added.

In the ancient city, Alaeddin found restored cellular communications and mobile internet. Small shops and kebab houses have reopened. 

“Yes, peaceful life is returning to our city, and we have returned,” a local resident, Abu Hamza, told the journalist. “Our home is here; we are restoring it little by little. In Homs, where we fled from the terrorists, we felt a burden to our relatives. But here everything is our own,” the resident added.

It’s too early to talk about a real return of peace, Abu said. The city is filled with many bombed out and looted buildings. “But one can…

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