In the Bab Tuma district of Syria’s capital Damascus, Fadi Mayal dreams of returning home to the ancient Christian town of Maaloula which was retaken by government forces this week.
But he and many other residents chased out when rebel forces including jihadists entered the town in September fear it may still be too early to go back.
The Syrian army recaptured Maaloula on Monday, saying it had restored “security and stability” to the picturesque hamlet where 5,000 people lived before the war began in March 2011.
“I would love to go back and celebrate Easter there, but it’s still a bit early,” said Mayalm in the capital’s Christian district of Bab Tuma.
“I’ll go back, that’s for sure. My father is buried there,” added the 42-year-old building contractor.
“But there are still sleeper cells in Maaloula…”
On Monday, as the army worked to recapture the town, three employees of Al-Manar, the television channel of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, were killed there.
An AFP correspondent who was in the town on Monday saw widespread destruction.
The Al-Safir hotel, which rebels had used as a base, was almost completely destroyed, its facade collapsed.
Downhill from the hotel, the Mar Sarkis Greek Catholic monastery was also damaged, its walls pierced by mortar rounds, and icons and other religious objects strewn on the ground inside…