Fight against ISIL: Syrian troops recapture devastated town

Islamic Extremism

Syrian troops and allies have captured another town controlled by ISIL. The push into the town of Al-Qaryatain deals another setback to terror group.

CCTV’s Alaa Ebrahim reports.

Fight against ISIL: Syrian troops recapture devastated town

Syrian troops and allies have captured another town controlled by ISIL. The push into the town of Al-Qaryatain deals another setback to terror group. CCTV's Alaa Ebrahim reports.

The Syrian army has managed to take Al-Qaryatin, pushing ISIL out of the strategically positioned town sitting on a vital intersection of roads that connect central Syria with its capital and countryside. Its borders extend all the way to Iraq and the oil rich Syrian eastern provinces.

Like many other cities and towns across the country, Al-Qaryatin has been battered beyond recognition. The cultural center which became an ISIL command center is now ruined. Thousands of houses and apartments have been destroyed, with a school and a communication center no longer able to serve their purpose.

The level of destruction here casts shadows of doubt on whether the town can be rebuilt and the town’s 15,000 population will ever get a chance to come back. Many think it is a long shot any of these houses will ever be called home again.

The question of what’s next haunts the mood in Al-Qaryatin. The government knows that while they might have retaken the city, they are left with the hefty task of rebuilding it. The military is at the front of this war too. No civilian contractors would consider working here while ISIL is less than 10 kilometers away.

Minutes away from the town sits its famous monastery, parts of which date back 1,400 years. ISIL Militants dug up the graves in the monastery, leaving the dead bones outside, ruined any religious or historic symbols, and rendered the place useless.

Even as the military operation has just ended, one community member took the risk of coming back.

Yehia is a member of the Qaryatin’s large Christian community who were forced out when IS arrived in August, 2015. Their houses were confiscated and many of them were kidnapped. Returning to the place where it all happened might not be easy.

The monastery has been demolished but not by the fighting. In late 2015, ISIL razed the monastery to the ground. By such acts the radical groups is not only aiming to terrorize the locals but also change the heritage and demographics of where it controls. Many fear fear that the changes could be irreversible.