First civilian flight since 2012 lands in Aleppo
ALEPPO, Syria – The first civilian flight in 8 years landed at Aleppo airport in northern Syria Wednesday, February 19, an Agence France-Presse correspondent on board the aircraft reported.
The flight comes days after the government announced it had wrested the entire region around the second city of Aleppo back from jihadists and their rebel allies.
Together with the M5, a highway connecting the country's 4 largest cities which was fully secured by the regime for the first time since 2012, the reopening of the airport is a key symbolic and economic move for the government.
The ministers of transport and tourism were both on the Syrian Air Airbus A320 that flew from the capital to Aleppo, as well as a group of journalists invited by the information ministry.
Roughly 40 minutes after takeoff, the plane touched down at 11:22 am (0922 GMT) at Aleppo airport, where officials and staff were gathered in a festive atmosphere.
The event was broadcast live on state television.
State news agency SANA quoted Transport Minister Ali Hammud as welcoming the reopening of the airport and the relaunch of domestic and international flights.
He described it as "a significant victory achieved thanks to the sacrifices of the heroic Syrian army and the steadfastness of the Syrian people."
The Syrian authorities announced the reopening of the airport on Monday, February 17, and said that commercial flights from Damascus and Cairo would start "in the coming days."
Civilian flights had stopped completely at Aleppo airport when rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad seized control of large parts of the city in 2012.
Trial flights took off from Aleppo in 2017, days after the climax of a devastating siege that put paid to rebel hopes of taking over Syria's second city.
With its troops engaged on several fronts, the government took time to secure areas around Aleppo and to reopen trade routes from the former industrial hub.
Government forces are still sweeping areas west of Aleppo from which rebels have repeatedly fired rockets at the city. – Rappler.com