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Nearly half a million displaced Syrians return home: UN

GENEVA: Nearly half a million displaced Syrians have returned to their homes since the beginning of the year, mainly to find family members and check on property, the UN refugee agency said on Friday. The agency said it had seen "a notable trend of spontaneous returns to and within Syria in 2017." Since January, about 440,000 people who had been displaced within the war-ravaged country had returned to their homes, mainly in Aleppo, Hama, Homs and Damascus, Andrej Mahecic, a spokesman for the agency, known as the UNHCR,…

Assad leads prayers in rare appearance outside Damascus

DAMASCUS: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad led Eid al-Fitr prayers in the central city of Hama on Sunday, appearing in public outside the capital for the first time in a year. Assad's office published images of him praying inside the brightly-lit Al-Nuri mosque at dawn on Sunday before greeting worshippers outside. He was flanked by Islamic Endowments Minister Mohammad Abdel-Sattar Sayyed and Syria's top Muslim cleric Ahmad Badredine Hassoun. Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the holy month of Ramazan, during which…