Displaced populations in the Aleppo countryside ask themselves: do we go back – or not?
Rapid military changes have pushed the residents of the cities and towns in Aleppo’s countryside to consider whether or not to return to their homes. The region has experienced a wave of displacement caused by attacks by President Bashar Al-Assad’s forces on the southern countryside up to the western edge of Aleppo in February.
Mohammed al-Saadi, a resident of rural Muhandisiyn near the town of El-Zorba, lives on the front line of the regime’s forces, which are stationed in the town of Zeitan. He recently returned to his home, saying “death is better than living in a tattered tent.”
Saadi told Enab Baladi about the difficulties he and his family faced during their displacement. “Leaving our house was not easy at all. I lived in a tent all of last winter, while my young boy, who is five, suffered a cold from which he barely recovered.”
The recent cessation of hostilities has had a positive effect on the region and allowed his family to return. Saadi stressed that, when the truce came into effect, a number of displaced people returned to their regions. “It had been impossible to live in those areas before,” he said. One of these areas was the village of Al-Kasibiya, near Tel Al-Ays, which was often targeted before the cease-fire.
Alaa al-Hamwi, who was displaced from rural western Aleppo and now lives in Idlib, said in an interview with Enab Baladi that his displacement took him to regions located 15 kilometers away from areas of the clash. “People living in relatively remote areas all returned to their homes about a month ago after Assad’s forces stopped advancing in the region.”
Some families haven’t returned yet
Riad Al-Ahmed, who was displaced from the town of Jeb Kas, part of the countryside east of Idlib and relatively close to the southern countryside of Aleppo, said that a good number of people from his town have not yet returned. “Despite the cessation of hostilities, there is still a possibility of an outbreak of violence in the region.”
Al-Ahmad explained that Jabhat al-Nusra attacked Till Al-Ays two weeks ago. “This pushed the region back into a state of instability,” he said. “The fear of displacement a second time makes some families want to wait until the threat subsides and the region is permanently calm.”
“Go back; there are people who make sure you can sleep in safety”
Abdou Al-Dahraoui, who is the top liason for the town of al-Zorba, said the military situation in the region is now “fully under control, and there is no possibility of Assad’s forces advancing after Russia’s withdrawal, regardless of the cessation of hostilities.”
Al-Dahraoui noted that the opposition has reinforced its protection efforts in the region. “We have put in place more than four lines of defense at various focal points, and despite repeated efforts by the regime during the truce to break into the town, they have not been able to enter.”
The militant called the residents of regions on the sideline of clashes to return to their homes, saying: “rest assured and come back to your homes, as there are people watching and making sure you stay safe”
Assad’s forces launched a massive attack in the southern countryside of Aleppo in mid-November of last year, backed by Iranian and Iraqi militias overland and Russian fighter jets by air. They were able to gain control of several strategic areas in the region, most notably, the town of Al-Hadir and Tillat al-Ays.
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