After nearly two years, The Washington Post returned to government-held areas of Syria for the first time this month. Traveling to Damascus, Aleppo and Homs, I saw the destruction caused by the war, but also daily life that continues despite it.

Aleppo

When people think of Aleppo, Syria's largest city, they now think of barrel bombs and buildings in ruin. But on the government-held side, there is a surprising degree of normality. Toward the front lines, the war is more evident however. Aleppo's famed old souk lies right in the crosshairs, and is heavily damaged from the fighting.

What's left of the old souk in #Aleppo, #Syria

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Front lines in #Aleppo's Salahuddin neighbourhood. Tarpaulins over the road behind to stop sniper fire. #Syria #war

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#Aleppo, #Syria

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Boy with balloons, #Aleppo's public park, on the government-held side of the city. #Syria

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Homs

During my last visit Homs had just been cleared of rebel forces. The level of destruction in the Old City, which had been encircled and bombarded for years, was shocking. Today, not a lot has changed.

 

Khalidiya neighbourhood of #Homs, #Syria. Nearly two years since it was retaken by the government and still in ruins.

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Damascus

Life in central Damascus has taken on a new sense of ease since a cease-fire was introduced last month. Incoming mortars are less common, and the city's souk was bustling. But Sayyidah Zainab, a Shiite shrine on the outskirts of Damascus, has been targeted by the Islamic State in bomb attacks in the past month.

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