The sounds of war, for now at least, have given way to the infectious laughter of children.
The celebration of the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha, which began on Monday, has provided a long-overdue respite for the littlest victims of Syria’s devastating war.
Also known as the Feast of Sacrifice, the four-day celebration started with morning prayers and continues with feasts and visits to friends and family. Gifts are exchanged.
CNN revealed that the second of two major holidays in Islam, Eid al-Adha coincides with a fragile peace brought on by a ceasefire deal brokered by the United States and Russia.
The deal calls for a halt to the violence between the Syrian regime and rebel forces. It also allows much-needed humanitarian access to besieged cities such as Aleppo.
Aleppo has seen many of its neighbourhoods come under fire and more than 6,000 people, mainly civilians, killed or injured.
But this week at least, the giggles, laughs and excited voices of young children were heard rising from the city’s ruins. Children lined up for simple amusement rides and mingled with costumed characters.
A decade ago Aleppo was a bustling economic hub boasting more than 2 million residents. Its robust history and ancient architecture drew many tourists. After four years of hellish battle, the city is now estimated to be home to roughly one-tenth of that number, between 200,000 and 300,000 people.
The fighting has been brutal, and many residents have been killed. Others have fled. Those who remained haven’t received much aid and are suffering shortages of food, fuel and medicine, a situation that grew only more desperate in July when President Bashar Assad’s forces bombarded a major supply artery into the city.
Just hours before the ceasefire began Monday evening, airstrikes continued to bombard opposition targets.
At least seven people, including three children, were killed in rebel-held eastern Aleppo on Monday, according to UK-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The latest assault followed the deaths of 93 people in airstrikes in Aleppo and Idlib over the weekend, 61 of them in an attack on a popular market where residents were shopping ahead of the Eid al-Adha holiday.
The Syrian civil war has killed more than 300,000 people and forced more than 5 million to flee the country, spawning an international refugee crisis.