Middle East

Syria minister sees 'prosperous tourist season' in Homs

This file photo released on Thursday Nov. 29, 2012 by the anti-government activist group Homs City Union of The Syrian Revolution, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows Syrian citizens walking in a destroyed street that was attacked by Syrian forces warplanes, at Abu al-Hol street in Homs province, Syria. (AP Photo/Homs City Union of The Syrian Revolution, File)

BEIRUT: Syria's tourism minister has forecast a "prosperous tourist season" for the central province of Homs, despite three years of raging conflict that has flattened much of the provincial capital.

In remarks carried by the state news agency SANA, Bisher Yazigi pledged help for the area, predicting a prosperous tourism season because "various activities are planned... during the summer".

There was no word on what these activities might be.

The upbeat projection, published Saturday, comes as some 2,000 fighters and civilians holed up in besieged rebel-held parts of Homs city prepare to withdraw under a deal with the authorities.

After the withdrawal, the former rebel stronghold will be turned over to the government.

But both the city of Homs and many of its most famed destinations -- including the Krak des Chevaliers Crusader castle -- have suffered enormous damage during fighting.

The historic Old City of Homs, formerly a tourist attraction, has been reduced to little more than rubble, with homes, shops and religious sites pulverised in near-daily bombardment and fighting.

And the prospects of a flood of tourists into any part of the country, where a civil war has killed more than 150,000 people, would appear to be slim.





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