The route from Beirut to Raqqa now takes between 20 and 40 hours. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)
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Buses to the Syrian city of Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of the ISIS caliphate, depart about once per evening from the Charles Helou station.A bomb blast blew out the windows of another bus, the driver said.Daesh is the Arabic acronym of ISIS.Somewhere between Damascus and Palmyra, the buses pass through the regime-ISIS front, crossing two checkpoints as if, in fact, they are entering another state. It is also illegal to smoke or bring cigarettes into ISIS territory.The buses move through a panorama of war.ISIS has systematically demolished the ruins there.Passengers and drivers say the ISIS officers are less venal; that if riders follow the rules, they will be allowed passage, and if they break the rules, they will be punished according to regulations. For carrying cigarettes, more than one rider said, that means disembarking the bus and receiving a lashing. ISIS will not let men under 50 enter regime areas.
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