In years, hundreds gathered in a square in western Aleppo in order to celebrate Christmas. After many years, the city which had significant Christian population at one time has seen liberation gradually after Syria-led forces in collaboration with Russia, Iran and other allies pushed out rebels and extremist groups thus years-long fighting ended.
Details revealed that there were attempts to ruin the Christmas tree lighting ceremony. These attempts were made while the joyful crowds were chanting and singing and waving the Syrian national flags. Suddenly an explosion unfolded on a street adjacent to the square in the al-Aziziyah neighborhood. The explosion sent the crowds in confusion and panic. There were no reports of causalities after the explosion.
While remaking about the celebrations Jesuit Father Ziad Hilal stated: “Despite the harsh conditions the people of Aleppo are enduring, [for both] Christians and Muslims, Christmas brings the hope for peace that we have missed for the last five years. Although many churches have been destroyed in Aleppo, the bells of the other churches will sound and hope they bring us peace.
Christians are preparing themselves for Christmas in their churches and associations, along with our compatriots in Syria, so that the sound of violence overcomes the deep sound of faith that each believer enjoys — God is with us.”
Father Ziad Hilal also pointed out that there had been massive efforts to evacuate civilians and others from the eastern Aleppo which had been a stronghold of rebels formerly. Rebels have accused the Syrian forces and their allied forces of killing up to 30,000 civilians. On the other hand the Syrian government has blamed the rebels of taking about 100,000 civilians hostage since the rebels took control of the city in 2010.
During the celebrations, citizens were singing, dancing and waving national flags. Some of them were dressed as Santa Claus and marched in brass bands. Ever since the rebels had taken control of the city, Christians had experienced heightened levels of persecution. Christians had to face intense persecution in the areas held by extremist groups including Islamic State and others. Moreover the airstrikes carried out by Syrian and Russian airstrikes have also caused much damage to Christian sites.