For former residents of Darayya’s al-Khalij neighborhood southwest of Damascus, hopes of return are fading as fears of property violations mount seven years after the regime retook control. Residents are not allowed to return, but many also find themselves unable to sell.
Just downhill from the occupied Syrian villages of Majdal Shams and Masaada, there is a small valley filled with plots of cherry and apple trees. A handful of the orchards reach upwards along the terraced hills that outline the Marj Yaafouri valley, overlooking the trees and a Druze shrine down below.
Up one of the hillside streets that winds through Majdal Shams is a run-down tailor shop hidden among the limestone apartment buildings. There are no signs of Israeli tourists on this street, in a quiet residential corner of town just steps from a fenced-off border zone separating Israeli-occupied territory from a ceasefire line demarcating areas controlled by the Syrian government.
International donors pledged $6.75 billion in humanitarian assistance for Syria and neighboring countries at the “Brussels III” conference on Thursday, following days of talks that revealed a growing gulf between hopes for humanitarian response and a political solution meant to bring the conflict, now in its ninth year, to an end.
For around five years, Judi Arash lived under siege in a bombed-out, encircled rebel-held area of northern Homs that, at one point, was restricted to just three square kilometers.As a respite, she threw herself into her job as a journalist, choosing to report on the conflict unfolding around her.