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'What's the point?' War-weary Syrians see no hope in Putin-Erdogan deal

AZAZ, Syria (Reuters) - The latest deal between Russia and Turkey to curb fighting in Syria’s northwest means little to Abu Ali.

A still image taken from a video obtained by Reuters and shot on March 2, 2020, shows Syrian army soldiers advancing on the town of Kfar Nabl, Syria. Reuters TV/via REUTERS

The farmer, his wife and their children have lived in a flimsy tent in a rubble-strewn camp since they fled the bombing in the Idlib region. But he has no faith the truce will manage to stop the conflict or allow him to take his family home one day.

“What’s the point of the ceasefire if people can’t return home? You cease fire and I’m still displaced,” Abu Ali, 49, said with a shrug. “I might never go home. What good is that for me? We will be stranded for the rest of our lives.”

Syria’s war has raged on into its ninth year, killing hundreds of thousands of people, making millions refugees and devastating entire cities as one truce after the other failed.

Many Syrians stuck in makeshift camps and sleeping in olive groves in the northwest, the country’s last big rebel stronghold, say they had lost hope in yet another deal.

Some, like Abu Ali, fear going home without a political solution that guarantees their safety. Others oppose returning to life under President Bashar al-Assad’s rule. Most did not even believe the warring sides would uphold the truce.

Hours into the ceasefire, deadly clashes erupted in Idlib on Friday. It underlined the fragility of the deal between Russia, which backs Assad, and Turkey, which supports rebel fighters but has less sway over Islamist militants in Idlib.

The deal between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan seeks to halt military action, but did not spell out how the displaced could return or address protection from air attack.

In the last three months, the latest army offensive has uprooted nearly a million people in northwest Syria, the largest exodus of the war.

Mohamad Shahabeddine does not know if his house is still standing since he ran from the air strikes and the army troops marching on his village nearly two months ago.

“The Putin-Erdogan deal is no good,” the 30-year-old construction worker said. “What good is it for us if we were uprooted, our homes are gone, and nothing is left? Today, we live in tents. The deal is no good and nobody is convinced.”

Reporting by Khalil Ashawi in Syria; Writing by Ellen Francis in Beirut; Editing by Mark Heinrich