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What’s Left of Palmyra — and Syria

wie gewinn ich auf anyoption May 9, 2016 Al Qaeda, Analysis, Palmyra, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Voices from Syria Comments Off on What’s Left of Palmyra — and Syria 346 Views

Tour guide “Tony” in front of the ruins of the Temple of Baal blown up by Daesh. He’s holding a drawing of the temple as it used to appear. (Photo credit: Jeff Klein)
Tour guide “Tony” in front of the ruins of the Temple of Baal blown up by Daesh. He’s holding a drawing of the temple as it used to appear. (Photo credit: Jeff Klein)

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We had to wait a while before entering the theater ourselves because there was a high-ranking group of Russian military officers visiting inside. Accompanying them was a contingent of very steely-eyed special forces soldiers who, despite the heat, wore full battle gear – body armor, helmets, boots, and gloves with fingers poised close to the triggers of their automatic weapons.

There is a large contingent of Russian military engineers and technicians engaged in the ongoing effort to disarm mines and booby traps in the city and among the ruins. They have their own camp just outside the town. Near the ruins is a former restaurant whose red sign announces, in Cyrillic and English, that it is the “Sappers Café.”

While we toured the site, explosions could be heard at regular intervals nearby and we could see the smoke of detonated mines.

When the officers and their guards exited the theater, our group leader Khaled, who like many Palestinians of his generation had received a scholarship to study in Soviet Leningrad, enthusiastically greeted the soldiers in fluent Russian, somewhat to their surprise.

Colonel Sameer had earlier told us that we could photograph anything we wanted – except the publicity-shy Russians. Given the cordial chitchat with Khaled, I thought I might ask if I could take a picture. The Russian translator answered, to everyone’s amusement, with an emphatic monosyllable – “NYET.”

opciones financieras noticias Confronting the Devastation

Leaving the newly vandalized ruins of ancient Palmyra and exiting past the devastation of modern Tadmor, it was hard to know how to feel. Was the recapture of this place a turning point or just one more chapter in a terrible war that has no end in sight?

The U.S. and its allies seem determined to bleed Syria to death, but the country refuses to expire. Russia, Iran and Hezbollah are supplying Syria with enough aid to stave off a military defeat, though not necessarily enough to achieve a decisive victory.

The U.S. has just pledged to supply the “moderate” rebels with new and more dangerous weapons that, as before, will no doubt make their way to Al-Qaeda and Daesh. The Syrian Arab Army is also facing new attacks in the north and around Aleppo, led by the Nusra front and its U.S.-supported allies, who have apparently taken advantage of the cease fire to re-arm and reorganize for new offensive actions.

The likelihood of an early comprehensive victory by either side seems remote. So, what does the future hold for Syria?

Nearly everyone we met – and they were by no means all uncritical supporters of the Assad regime – told us that they believed any hope for Syria required, first of all, the defeat of the armed rebels and an end to foreign intervention in their country.

This was especially the sentiment of Christian and Druze religious representatives, along with ethnic minorities and secular people of all faith backgrounds. Together they undoubtedly comprise a majority of the Syrian population.

Regardless of the legitimate grievances at the root of the crisis which began in 2011, and even if the opposition may not all be “terrorists,” as the Assad regime charges, the armed rebels now overwhelmingly represent Sunni fundamentalists of various stripes, whose vision for Syria is a religiously exclusive Islamic state, not a secular democracy. This is true for the most part of the so-called “moderate” opposition which the U.S. and its allies are arming and financing, not only the recognized extremists and foreign fighters in ISIS/Daesh and Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front. Democratic and secular oppositionist are nearly insignificant on the battlefields.

Lebanon’s bloody civil war lasted 15 years; Syria’s war, now in its sixth year, may not be shorter. Lebanon today is mostly free of internal violence, even if it remains a country nearly without a functioning state; in Syria the state remains but it has lost much of the country.

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Nevertheless, amid the violence and despair of the current situation in Syria, there are also signs of hope and resilience. In central Damascus the shops and restaurants are open, even if the tourist hotels remain nearly empty. In the Old City’s Bab Touma neighborhood where we stayed – especially since the partial cease-fire agreement that was established earlier this year has minimized the rebel mortar and rocket attacks – the streets were crowded with students and shoppers.

There was a vibrant nightlife at many cafes and eating places, often with live music and spirited diners who took to spontaneous dancing and singing along to the music. But there were also military checkpoints along the major streets and at the gates to the town.

In Homs, the old city which was under rebel control and the scene of intense fighting until 2014, has been nearly totally destroyed. But the historic Khaled Ibn Walid mosque is now the site of a major restoration project. In the ruined old covered market, a few storekeepers have re-opened for business and several shops are undergoing repairs.

In another part of the city, not far from where the courageous Dutch Jesuit Frank van der Lugt was murdered by the retreating rebels, the vandalized Syrian Orthodox Notre Dame de la Ceinture is also undergoing restoration.

The Homs district governor says there are plans to build 100,000 new housing units to replace what was destroyed. Where the money will come from to finance this work is not clear in a Syria whose economy has been devastated by the war and whose currency has lost 90 percent of its value compared to the U.S. dollar.

einfache binäre optionen broker Remembering Past Tragedy

The two Palestinians on our Syria delegation embodied an earlier tragedy in the region. In 1948, Khaled’s parents fled to Jordan from Kufr Saba  — now Kfar Sava in today’s Israel. He spent part of his childhood in the Gulf states, where his father had found a job. After studying engineering in the Soviet Union, Khaled returned to Jordan, lives in Amman and carries a Jordanian passport.

Wesam’s parents were from a small village near Haifa and they fled in 1948 to Lebanon, where he was born. He is without citizenship in any country and carries only a Palestinian “travel document” that serves instead of a passport. His wife Lina’s family is originally from Ramle, now also in Israel. She grew up in Ramallah and eventually moved with her family to the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, where she met and married Wesam.

After their house on the outskirts of the camp was destroyed in the fighting few years ago, they moved back to Lebanon. There they live in Beirut’s very crowded Burj el-Barajneh refugee camp, whose population has been recently swelled by an influx of thousands of impoverished Syrians escaping from the war in their country.

Wesam says he is saddened to see so many Syrians fleeing their country, but he understands their decision, even if he believes it is wrong.

“Who will build the country again if everyone leaves,” he asks. “Syrians should not make the same mistake that we Palestinians made in 1948. If you leave your country, maybe you will never be allowed to return.”

Yet, despite everything, many Syrians remain determined to stay. In Old Homs, across the street from the Syrian Orthodox church, a new café is one of the first re-opened shops in the area. It was filled with young men and women taking refreshments and socializing together – a scene unthinkable in most zones now under rebel control. On the wall is painted a statement of hope, referencing some famous verses by the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, who is also revered by Syrians:

In this neighborhood,

WE SUFFERED,

We went through

difficult times and

We fled our homes.

Today we may still

Suffer, difficult

Times remain, but

WE ARE

HOLDING ON

TO OUR LAND..

Believing the Sun

Will Rise Again..

opzioni binarie broker investimento minimo Jeff Klein is a retired local union president, a long-time Palestine solidarity activist and a board member of Mass Peace Action. [This article previously appeared at Mondowweiss, http://mondoweiss.net/2016/04/say-hello-to-zenobia-a-report-from-palmyra-rising-from-the-ashes/]

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