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>> Determined to restore Aleppo and preserve Syria's past, a group of volunteers working tirelessly to save what they can. Amid the smell of burning, they continue the painstaking work of mending this destruction caused by civil war that shattered the old city's priceless heritage. Reuters Angus McDowall was there.
>> The ground is littered with bullet cartridges, like this one, and there are shell pocks, bullet marks all over the walls. In some places, the walls are so peppered with bullets that it's hard to find a smooth patch of wall larger than the palm of your hand.>> Aleppo is one of the Middle East's great historic centers.
A source of national pride and identity as well as tourist revenue back in happier times. Fighting erupted here in 2012, a year after the rising against President Bashar al-Assad. The rebels quickly took control of Aleppo's eastern districts and much of the old city. Clashes in 2012 and 2013 converted the souks around the mosque into one of the country's fiercest frontlines.
>> The soot on the walls can be cleaned, the shell holes can be refilled, the bullet pocks smoothed over, but there is one great loss here that probably can't be replaced. Even if it is eventually rebuilt in some kind and that is the 11th century minaret, which was struck by a shell, it now lies a pile of old stones in the corner of the mosque courtyard.
>> Rebels finally forced to surrender the enclave in December after months of intense fighting. Around 30% of the old city suffered catastrophic damage. But despite the destruction, many people are now starting to return, clearing rubble and waiting for electricity to be reinstalled. Or to see places that were to dangerous to visit, hoping that one day soon the ruins will be replaced with tourists.