Syria starts rebuilding even as more destruction wreaked

HOMS, SYRIA: In the Syrian city of Homs’ landmark Clock Square, where some of the first anti-government protests erupted in 2011, stands a giant poster of a smiling President Bashar Assad waving his right arm, with a caption that reads: “Together we will rebuild.”

Four years after the military brought most of the city back under Assad’s control, the government is launching its first big reconstruction effort in Homs, planning to erect hundreds of apartment buildings in three neighborhoods in the devastated center of the city.

In central Homs, Malek Traboulsi and his partner paid nearly $400,000 — even selling off their wives’ jewelry — to renovate their restaurant, Julia Palace, which suffered major damage in the war. It re-opened on Christmas Day 2016.

Some people warned him he was investing in the unknown. But Traboulsi said he could never bear to sell off his property and leave Syria.

“This is my country,” he said on a recent evening as he moved among the tables chatting with customers. “Here is where I breathe, here is my life and I cannot live in any other place.”