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Hundreds Gather for Christmas Celebrations in Liberated Aleppo

© REUTERS / Omar SanadikiThe sun rises while smoke is pictured near Aleppo's historic citadel, as seen from a government-controlled area of Aleppo, Syria December 6, 2016.
The sun rises while smoke is pictured near Aleppo's historic citadel, as seen from a government-controlled area of Aleppo, Syria December 6, 2016. - Sputnik International
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Hundreds have flocked to a square in western Aleppo to celebrate Christmas for the first time in years as one of the largest Syrian cities is gradually returning to peaceful life after Damascus-led forces assisted by Russia, Iran and their allies have pushed out radical groups and put an end to years-long fighting.

Militants tried to ruin the Christmas tree lighting ceremony as joyful crowds were chanting, singing and waving the Syrian national flag. An explosion took place on a street adjacent to the square in the al-Aziziyah neighborhood, forcing the crowds to flee in panic, but the attack failed to disrupt the event for long. People returned to the square minutes after the incident happened, a testament to how resilient and sturdy they have become to terrorism.

Children in Aleppo - Sputnik International
Life in Liberated Aleppo Goes On, Traces of Militants' Presence Seen Everywhere
Until recently western Aleppo was frequently subject to missile attacks and shelling from rebel-held areas of the city, which was partially controlled by al-Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham and similar radical groups since a foreign-sponsored insurgency morphed into a major war in 2012. Policymakers in the United States and Europe often insisted that some of these militants are in fact members of the so-called moderate opposition despite numerous verified accounts that they have taken part in crimes against civilians.

The explosion did not inflict any casualties, but provided a powerful reminder that the war, largely fueled from the outside, has not been resolved yet and that major battles are looming. However, Damascus' victory in Aleppo offers hope that sustainable peace in the city and the country is on the horizon.

The Christmas celebration in al-Aziziyah is still an uncommon site for Aleppo. But it paints a picture of a city making an effort to put the nearly six-years-long conflict behind it, a stark contrast to dubious claims that Aleppo residents have suffered at the hands of the Syrian Arab Army and its allies following the city's liberation. Despite the fact that there has been no confirmation that these assertions are credible, they have been picked up by the mainstream media in the West.

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