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Once In Clutches Of Daesh/ISIS Terrorists, Syria's Al-Bab Now A Safe Haven For Hundreds Of Thousands

22.02.2024 22:42

Al Bab city, cleared of Daesh/ISIS terror group 7 years ago by Türkiye, is today a safe haven for hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians.

By Esref Musa and Omer Koparan

AL-BAB, Syria (AA) — Seven years after being cleared of Daesh/ISIS terrorists, the northwestern Syrian city of al-Bab is today home to hundreds of thousands of civilians who have sought refuge from raging civil war, despite attacks by the PKK/YPG terror group.

Türkiye launched Operation Euphrates Shield across its southern border on Aug. 24, 2016, liberating al-Bab district center from Daesh/ISIS six months later.

Conducted in line with Türkiye's right to self-defense, enshrined in the UN Charter, the operation prevented the formation of a terror corridor along Syria's northern border and enabled the peaceful resettlement of thousands of Syrians uprooted by conflict.

Following the operation, the Turkish military and the Syrian National Army focused on providing security for the region and creating necessary conditions for the return of displaced civilians due to terrorism.

Thanks to projects in education, health care, infrastructure, and other services, residents in the district center and surrounding settlements have reached about 400,000.

Euphrates Shield was the first of three anti-terror operations Ankara has launched across its border in northern Syria. It was followed by Olive Branch in 2018, and Peace Spring a year later.

Basic services

Education in the liberated areas has been a priority for Türkiye, which has played a major role in bringing 154 schools back into operation in the district center.

Currently, over 150,000 students are enrolled in rural areas and the district center.

The Turkish Health Ministry has also been working to normalize life in the liberated areas, provide humanitarian and technical assistance, and minimize patient transfers to Türkiye.

Numerous healthcare facilities have been made available to locals, with the al-Bab Hospital opened in the district center as one of the foremost medical centers in northern Syria with the ministry's help.

The Türkiye Diyanet Foundation also restored numerous mosques in the district with the support of philanthropists.

Also, the local council has launched repairs on damaged power infrastructure, with homes and businesses now connected to the electricity grid.

While the provision of such basic services and infrastructure have made the region a better place to live for residents, attacks by PKK/YPG terrorists occupying the neighboring regions of Tal Rifaat and Manbij areas have disrupted peace and stability.

In its more than 35-year terror campaign against Türkiye, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Türkiye, the US, and EU – has been responsible for the deaths of more than 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants. The YPG is its Syrian offshoot.

During the operation, settlements spread over 2,055 square kilometers (793 square miles) were cleared of Daesh/ISIS terrorists in 217 days.

'Returning to al-Bab was a dream'

Ammar Naser, a resident of al-Bab, told Anadolu that he had to leave his hometown when Daesh/ISIS captured it in 2014.

"I had to move to Idlib (province) because of Daesh terrorists. They detained my brother, and we lost contact with him. At that time, I had to evacuate my family. Returning to al-Bab was a dream."

Naser said it was because of Operation Euphrates Shield that they were able to return home. "When we entered al-Bab, it resembled a ghost town. We could never have hoped for the district to rise again. Thanks to the efforts of the people of al-Bab and all Syrians, it has risen again."

He believes al-Bab is one of the best cities in northern Syria, suggesting that the surrounding countryside could achieve an exemplar agricultural sector with more investment in this field.

Change in appearance

Jalal al-Tallawi, who settled in al-Bab seven years ago to escape regime attacks in Homs province further south, said they arrived in al-Bab 10 days after its liberation from Daesh/ISIS.

"Directorates affiliated with the local council were established, with 70-80% of the district restored. Hand in hand, its appearance has changed. People from Homs have quickly integrated with the local community."

Tallawi added that al-Bab "has slowly regained its current appearance over the past seven years. The district needs many things. We have dreams for a better tomorrow, and we continue to work for them."

Quality services at low cost

Speaking to Anadolu, al-Bab's Local Council head Haytham Shihabi emphasized the body's crucial role in providing basic services to residents.

"Life in the city returned to normal through the services and projects provided by the local council. Rubble was removed. Streets were cleaned. Electricity has reached our district.

"We repaired public buildings and roads. We renewed the infrastructure under challenging conditions. There have been significant investments in the health sector. In addition to renovating damaged schools, new ones were opened. We are trying to address water shortages within our means," he said.

On population records, Shihabi said about 200,000 people have obtained local identity cards so far, adding that the council's social services department has been helping needy families.

"We provided financial and logistical support to a total of 24,800 families, including 19,800 in the (district) center, 1,800 in rural areas, and 3,200 in tent camp areas.

"We are trying to achieve self-sufficiency by supporting micro-commercial activities. We strive to provide quality service to citizens at low cost," he said. -



 
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