The Syrian authorities have confirmed that Al-Zabadani resort town, 25km from Damascus, has recently been liberated by the Syrian Army after a fierce battle with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) militants. Residents, who left the city more than five years ago, have started to return homes.

Prior to the outbreak of civil war, Zabadani was considered as one of the flagship resort in the West Asian country. The town used to attract tourists mainly because of its geographical location, as it is situated near the Barada River (not far from the Syrian-Lebanese border). In Zabadani, tourists also get an opportunity to enjoy the extraordinary scenic beauty of the mountain and picturesque landscapes.

In recent past, the town was run by HTS militants. However, they were forced to retreat last week and they left behind only ruins. Although the population of the town was around 190,000 before the war, it has come down to 80,000.

Unfortunately, most of the houses in the town are partly destroyed and they will have to be demolished now. According to the local authorities, the rehabilitation works are not yet in full swing. The Syrian engineers have conducted mine-sweeping in the area, allowing builders to prepare the central part of the town for large-scale reconstruction works.

The restoration of the local railway station and the resumption of railway service between Zabadani and Damascus have also been planned. Interestingly, the railway tracks, connecting the capitals of Syria and Lebanon, go through Zabadani.

Local residents informed Inside Syria military correspondence that the electricity and water supply have already been restored, as well as an access to drinking water. At the same time, a number of grocery stores and pharmacies have been reopened.

The majority of Zabadani population is orthodox Christians. So, the local authorities have decided to rebuild the main Orthodox Church, which was partly destroyed after a mortar attack. Despite the partial destruction of the Church, the priests are holding services.

Restoration of peace in Zabadani and (in Damascus province as a whole) has become possible due to cessation of hostilities and establishment of de-escalation zones. Because of such initiatives taken by the Syrian government and the guarantor states of Syrian ceasefire (Iran, Russia and Turkey), more and more militants have started laying down weapons and joining nationwide reconciliation plan. The scenario encourages civilians to safely return to their homes, as they know that they are no longer threatened.

With reports concerning the liberation of the new settlements emerging more frequently, Syrians have expressed hope that the entire country will be completely liberated from terrorist organisations and illegal armed groups soon. Although the civil war in Syria is not yet over, the de-escalation zones have actually accelerated post-war reconstruction process. The government forces and the state have demonstrated to the global community an incredible willpower in fighting terrorism and the persistence of character in confronting all kinds of external threats.

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog - Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]