Touching down on Wednesday afternoon (Feb. 19) from the capital Damascus, a commercial flight at Aleppo’s airport marks the resumption of domestic flights between Syria’s two largest cities.
The milestone flight is a first for war-ravaged Aleppo since 2012, despite the government’s onslaught continuing nearby, with airstrikes hitting several rebel-held towns and villages.
Syrian officials and journalists were on the re-invigorated service—a symbolic message from the Bashar Assad’s regime, days after government forces seized the north-western province of Aleppo; taking control of the last segments of the strategic M5 highway linking Aleppo to Damascus.
The major thoroughfare between Syria’s two biggest cities was being repaired and was scheduled to reopen, for the first time in eight years.
For weeks, Assad’s forces, backed by heavy Russian air strikes, continue a bruising military offensive to recapture the last rebel-held areas in the country – to include the Aleppo countryside and parts of neighbouring Idlib province in north-western Syria.
Caught in the crossfire of the bitter battle are Syrian civilians, the only losers in the nine-year civil war.
The United Nations (UN) estimates that since December 1, 2019, over 900,000 Syrians – more than half being women and children – have been displaced many of them left staying in tents, open fields and under trees in freezing temperatures near the Turkish border.