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Fighting revives refugees' hopes of returning to Aleppo

After well more than a year living under wretched conditions in refugee camps, thousands of displaced residents from northern Aleppo province hope to return home soon as the Free Syrian Army fights to reclaim towns from the Syrian Democratic Forces.
People ride motorcycles amidst the rubble of damaged buildings in the northern Syrian town of al-Bab, Syria, February 28, 2017. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi - RTS10UG7

NORTHERN ALEPPO PROVINCE, Syria — It’s been almost a year and a half since Abdullah Hilal has been at his house in Tel Rifaat, about 25 miles north of the city of Aleppo. Hilal and his family fled the town two days before it was seized by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in February 2016.

During the battle, the SDF — which includes Kurdish fighters — was also backed by Russian air power that carried out hundreds of airstrikes against Tel Rifaat and other areas held by the Turkey-supported rebels of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), displacing thousands of civilians from their towns and villages.

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