Dayr al-Zawr reviving after Daesh withdrawal

Publish date : Saturday 23 September 2017 14:12
Code: 285171

Traffic is still rare in Syria's Dayr al-Zawr due to a fuel shortage, but life has slowly returned to its markets since government forces broke the siege of the city.

Russian-backed government forces on September 5 ended the Islamic State group's three-year siege of a government enclave in the city in eastern Syria.

They are now pressing the battle to retake all of the provincial capital, trying to corner the terrorists in its eastern sector.

In western government-held areas, the wide avenues are deserted.

In one square, two uniformed traffic policemen monitor the rare cars that pass by.

Only a few drivers have been able to find fuel since the end of the siege, after years of shortages.

Most private vehicles remain parked by the side of the road, covered in dust or protected by torn car covers.

A few men sit together drinking tea at the entrance of an apartment bloc, surrounded by abandoned buildings whose windows have been shattered.

In 2014, Deir az-Zour was the scene of fierce clashes between government forces and Daesh, who took control of much of the wider oil-rich province of the same name.

During the siege, some 100’000 residents in government-held areas relied on UN or government aid brought in by helicopter.

Italian-style ice-cream

But today, markets in western districts have slowly begun to refill as food and other aid enters the city more regularly.

At night, the lights of those few shops equipped with generators spill onto streets filled with shoppers.

Young women in jeans and colorful headscarves, men in traditional dress and children in shorts walk in front of the stalls.

During the siege, "I lived on bulghur wheat and cereals," says Ahmed, a thin-faced man in his 50s, who says he lost 40 kilos.

But better times have come for many residents of Dayr al-Zawr.

In the market, chicken kebabs are prepared before they sizzle on the grill, and piping hot loaves of bread come out of the ovens.

Not far away, a snack shop employee prepares a sandwich from the hard-boiled eggs, fried potatoes, fried slices of aubergine and falafel lined up in front of him.

"Before we had to use wood to light the fire. Food tasted like wood," he says, adding that since the end of the siege cooking gas has become more readily available.

Outside one shop, near a portrait of President Bashar al-Assad, children push to get close to a dispenser of Italian-style ice-cream.

Besieged government-held areas were constantly targeted by militants’ artillery fire during the siege.

Clearing away debris

Dayr al-Zawr governor Mohammed Ibrahim Samra says 20 percent of buildings were destroyed in the government-controlled areas of the city.

But the damage was not as severe as in some areas outside the city, he said.

"There wasn't a single building left untouched" in the previously Daesh-held Al-Baghiliya suburb or Ayyash village to the north of the city when troops arrived, Samra said.

In al-Baghiliya, an AFP reporter saw a mechanical digger clearing away debris and municipal workers in green uniforms sweeping the streets.

To the south of the city, a military airport is back in service after a militants’ siege ended there too.

According to its deputy head, who did not give his name, the airport's damaged waiting room and control tower are being renovated.

But its runways remain intact, and two aircraft loaded with provisions for government troops landed there on Monday for the first time in months.

"The airport is ready to welcome not just military airplanes but also civilians," the official says, adding that the surrounding area has been secured for a 20-kilometre (12-mile) radius.
Source : The New Arab