World

Celebrations over Aleppo victory

ALEPPO: Thousands of people in western Aleppo took to the streets on Thursday to rejoice in the Syrian regime's operation to retake the eastern side of their city from rebels after a years-long battle.

Celebratory gunfire began to erupt as soon as the army announced that the last rebels had left east Aleppo.

West Aleppo had been under the control of President Bashar al-Assad's forces throughout the conflict.

"We have been waiting five years for this. We have suffered, what with the rebels, the water shortages and the power cuts," said Ms Rana al-Salem, 29, as tears welled in her eyes.

Cars crawled along the streets with their drivers sounding their horns. In city squares, children had the colours of the Syrian flag painted on their cheeks.

Some carried portraits of Mr Assad or the flags of Syria and Russia, whose air raids against the rebels were a turning point.

"Our joy is immense. Life returned to Aleppo today," said lawyer Omar Halli, who predicted "victory over all of Syria".

FIREWORKS

Some took selfies in the middle of the crowd while others let off fireworks.

"My mother swore that I would only get married in our house, in the Old City," a 26-year-old man told AFP.

"I am going to go back to our house and build another floor on it, and I will be living there after my wedding."

Centuries-old and studded with historic stone buildings, the Old City became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986.

But in the battle of Aleppo, the quarter became part of the frontline. In 2013, the United Nations agency placed it on its list of cultural heritage that was at risk.

The loss of east Aleppo is the biggest blow to the rebel movement in Syria's nearly six-year conflict, which has killed more than 310,000 people.

The announcement on Wednesday came after a landmark evacuation deal that ended a month-long offensive by government forces and allied militia. - AFP

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