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With war over, life trickles back into Syria's Harasta

A Syrian boy rides his bicycle amid the rubble of destroyed buildings being removed by a bulldozer in the city of Harasta, on the outskirt of the Syrian capital Damascus, July 15, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

The Syrian government has undertaken a fast-paced and determined reconstruction push in the city of Harasta in the capital Damascus’ suburbs which was in the hands of the terrorists for the past few years.

The city lies in the Damascus countryside of Eastern Ghouta, which was liberated back in March after months of Russia-backed counter-terrorism operations.

Children wave national flags and carry portraits of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad outside the city of Harasta on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, May 15, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Given its proximity to the capital, Eastern Ghouta soon became a prime bastion of the foreign-backed terrorists, when they began their campaign of bloodshed and destruction against the Arab country in 2011. They kept a grip on the countryside for some five years.

Most of the residents of the city of 250,000 left after the start of the war, leaving behind only 15,000. 

Domestic and international media outlets have, however, been reporting how the citizens have been trickling back to reclaim their businesses and properties.

On Thursday, AFP said the returnees had begun dumping the rubble from their damaged houses onto main streets before it could be taken away by government vehicles.

“Whatever happens, it’s still my house, and my house is so dear to me,” one said of his residence, which has suffered during the conflict.

“I wait for families to enter and offer them my services in cleaning and restoration,” said another.

Adnan Wezze, who heads the town council running Harasta since the recapture by the government, said authorities were working fast to demolish buildings “at risk of collapse, because they present a public safety threat”. 

About the yet-unclaimed structures, he said if the owners were not present, “their rights are still protected. We’ve requested proof of property even before areas are designated as development projects.”

“No resident of Harasta will lose his rights – whether they’re here or in exile,” the official added.

Many urban hubs across Syria, particularly around Damascus, have been hard-hit by hostilities, and President Bashar Assad said this month that rebuilding would be his “top priority,” according to AFP. 

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