Damascus prepares for Christmas without mortar fire

DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Christmas decorations are going up for the first time in years in a Damascus neighbourhood that was a frontline in Syria's war until government forces wiped out the last rebel enclaves in the capital earlier this year. 'Christmas preparations this year are more than excellent

Reuters December 17, 2018 00:05:46 IST
Damascus prepares for Christmas without mortar fire

Damascus prepares for Christmas without mortar fire

DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Christmas decorations are going up for the first time in years in a Damascus neighbourhood that was a frontline in Syria's war until government forces wiped out the last rebel enclaves in the capital earlier this year.

"Christmas preparations this year are more than excellent. There are no mortars anymore," said Hanna al-Saad, a shop owner in the Qasaa district that was often shelled from the adjacent area of Jobar.

Abbasiyeen Square, where mortars regularly fell, and nearby parts of the city are being decked out with lighting and Christmas trees, while musicians with a local scout troop are preparing for a Christmas march not seen for years.

"We are so happy. The children can now come again to the church without worrying for their safety, and their parents feel more reassured," said Aline Droubi, a musician with the scout troop that practices at a church in Abbasiyeen.

The eastern edge of Damascus bore the brunt of insurgent shelling until government forces recovered control of the Ghouta region in a Russian-backed offensive that the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says killed 1,600 civilians.

Over the course of the Syrian war, insurgent shelling killed some 2,000 people in Damascus, according to a Facebook group that recorded the attacks.

Following the recovery of eastern Ghouta in April, government forces moved on to take back the Yarmouk area south of the capital, bringing all Damascus back under state control.

"Last year we didn't dare to walk in the streets a lot," said Abir Ismail, a resident of al-Qasaa neighborhood, adjacent to Jobar town that was controlled by an armed faction.

"We had no electricity and there were no lights or decorations," she added, expressing excitement at the sight of the decorated streets and houses this year.

(Reporting by Kinda Makieh; Writing by Dahlia Nehme and Tom Perry; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.