(MENAFN - Arab News) Homs: syrians streamed back into the devastated old city of homs on saturday picking through the remains of their homes and trying to come to terms with the destruction.
thousands of people walked through the devastated streets of their former neighborhoods some appearing shellshocked by the scale of the damage.
the influx came a day after the last rebel holdouts left the area under an evacuation deal that handed the old city back to the government granting it a symbolic victory.
the pullout leaves the rebels confined to a single district on the outskirts of homs syria’s third city once dubbed “the capital of the revolution” against bashar assad.
on saturday homs provincial gov. talal al-barazi declared the evacuated areas safe after troops swept for explosives.
“barazi announced that the old city of homs is safe and free of weapons and insurgents thanks to the sacrifices of the syrian army” state news agency sana said.
residents quickly returned to see what remained of their homes and retrieve whatever was left behind.
many were visibly distressed by the scale of destruction with rubble strewn across streets and every building bearing scars from the conflict that wracked the central city once home to 1.6 million people.
rebel forces in the old city were under government siege for nearly two years before the deal to evacuate and regime troops shelled the area almost daily throughout.
“i promised my wife that i would bring her sewing machine and that’s what i’m doing” said jamil habib a retired teacher aged 77.
he wept as he surveyed his house — rebels had punched large holes in the walls to allow them passage through buildings.
“the destruction is just horrible” said 37-year-old rima battah in the hamidiyeh district of the old city.
“my husband went to our house yesterday and found it destroyed. we came back together today to get our things” she added gesturing to the five large bags of possessions.
dozens of families were doing the same gathering whatever clothes and keepsakes could be salvaged.
nawal al-masri 51 had worked in the old city as a seamstress and returned to check on her former workshop.
“everything is destroyed all the sewing machines have been stolen the fridge has been stolen even the generator” she said.
“i worked here for 30 years” she added.
“there’s nothing left except one basket in which i found a single pair of scissors.”
she said she planned to file a request for compensation from a 588000 fund set up by the local chamber of industry.
barazi told sana he was forming committees of residents to assess the damage.