KILIS, Turkey

Hundreds of Syrians are returning to their home country to celebrate the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha with their relatives in Syria after the Turkish army liberated terrorist hotbeds near the border.

On the local governor’s permission, Syrians began to cross the border to see their relatives living in northern areas, including Azaz, Mare, Soran, Aktarin, al-Rai, Afrin, Jarablus, and al-Bab, which were made safe with Operations Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch.

The number of Syrians crossing to see their relatives ahead of Eid via the Oncupinar Border Gate in Turkey’s southeastern province of Kilis has reached 203 in the last two days.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Muhammed Misto said he is able to cross into northern Syria with a special permission received from Turkey.

“I’ve missed my relatives very much,” he added while celebrating everyone’s upcoming holidays.

Meanwhile, the crossings, which started on July 5, will last until July 18. Returns will be made on July 26-31.

Syria has been ravaged by a civil war since early 2011 when the regime of Bashar al-Assad cracked down on pro-democracy protesters.

Since 2016, Turkey has launched a trio of successful anti-terror operations across its border in northern Syria to prevent the formation of a terror corridor and enable the peaceful settlement of residents: Euphrates Shield (2016), Olive Branch (2018), and Peace Spring (2019).

Over the past decade, around half a million people have been killed and more than 12 million had to flee their homes.

* Writing by Merve Aydogan in Ankara.

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