In the sweltering triple-digit temperatures around Raqqa in north-central Syria, children leap from a railing into an irrigation canal to cool off. While Syrian Democratic Forces battle Islamic State militants in Raqqa, children outside the besieged city are finding their own fun.
The International Committee of the Red Cross recently was able to enter a nearby town, Tabqa, for the first time in years after Syrian militias pushed out ISIS fighters. The aid organization said repairing Tabqa dam was a “priority,” not only for water but for the electricity it generates.
Syria’s seven-year civil war has displaced 6.3 million people within the country and forced 5 million people to escape to other countries.
Though there are still large numbers of displaced people, Syrians in some parts of the country are returning home. More than 600,000 have returned since the beginning of 2017, mostly to Aleppo in northern Syria, according to the International Organization for Migration and its local partners.
Most returnees said they wanted to protect their property and felt the economic situation was better than where they were staying, the IOM reported.
Andrej Mahecic, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said it was too early to say whether de-escalation zones or Geneva peace talks were motivating the uptick in returns, and that people should still be careful about the security situation.