World Bulletin / News Desk
When the army recaptured Aleppo in December, Mohammad Baqdul left Beirut and returned with his family to his native city, convinced the end of Syria's six-year war was near.
But four years later, the tables have turned.
Assad's forces have recaptured the whole city, shattering rebel dreams of toppling the regime and putting the brutal war on a new trajectory.
"When I heard Aleppo had been secured, I thought the war was on the brink of ending, so I brought my family back," says Baqdul.
The devastation in Shaar is striking: its dusty streets are flanked by flattened buildings and piles of rubble.
Baqdul stands proudly with his young daughter in front of his new brick shop, welcoming residents who are buying materials to fix up their homes.
- 'People are tired' -
Syria's war erupted on March 15, 2011 with peaceful demonstrations that, after a violent crackdown by government security forces, transformed into an armed uprising.
In six years, the multi-front war has become one of the most destructive conflicts of the 21st century.
Backed by Turkey, the Gulf and some Western nations, Syrian rebels were at their strongest in 2012 and many thought they would march to Damascus.
But Assad's powerful allies came to the rescue: Iran sent military advisers and fighters, Lebanon's Shiite militant group Hezbollah joined forces and Russia began a deadly bombing campaign in support of Damascus in 2015.
That support was key to retaking Aleppo, allowing the government to consolidate its upper hand by seizing other strategic territory, including from Islamic State group jihadists in northern Syria.
While swathes of the country remain embroiled in violence, Syria's government has decidedly won the crux of the conflict.
Aleppo, meanwhile, has become a symbol of the most destructive streak of the war -- but some have found a silver lining.
"I think the war is heading toward an end, because people are tired and they prefer to stay where they are instead of being displaced again," said Ibrahim Amoura, a 35-year-old labourer.
He spoke to AFP while working on a ceiling in the formerly rebel-held district of Karm al-Jabal.
For years, residents of Karm al-Jabal had only heard the sounds of gunfire and bombardment. Now, the nearly-incessant whirring of generators, cement mixers and pounding hammers fill their days.Last Mod: 13 Mart 2017, 14:20