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Syrian Tourism Minister Says Homs Ready For Tourists

Syria's Minister of Tourism has said that areas near the devastated city of Homs are preparing for a prosperous tourism season.
Posted at 10:26 PM, May 05, 2014

Homs, Syria is a besieged city with a starving population that has been experiencing some of the most brutal skirmishes between government forces and rebels since the Syrian Civil War broke out in 2011. Sounds like the perfect tourist destination ... right? 

Apparently the Syrian government thinks so. Syria's state news service, the Syrian Arab News Agency, reports Syria's Minister of Tourism said Saturday that areas near Homs "planned to witness a prosperous tourist season as 'miscellaneous activities are planned ... during summertime.'"

In the very same article, SANA reports that the minister later visited a hospital in Homs to check on civilians injured in two deadly bombings in the city. 

The U.S. Department of State isn't too confident that there'll be any turn around in tourism in Syria, warning that with the armed conflicts, there's "an increased risk of kidnappings, bombings, murder, and terrorism." Indiscriminate shelling and chemical warfare also get a mention.

While the report is actually referring to the historic Crusader castle of Krak des Chevaliers, the hopeful tourist destination is only a little over 30 minutes from war-torn Homs. (Via Discovery)

The crusader castle hasn't been able to escape the violence of the civil war. Although recaptured in 2014, this footage shows the castle alledgedly being shelled by government forces last year in an attempt to root out the rebels. (Via APSAYouTube / br0dskalk)

The city of Homs hasn't fared much better either. Many of the buildings have been decimated as government and rebel forces clashed for control of the country's third largest city. (Via The TelegraphYouTube / Syria Baynetna)

Just recently in February, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees released a video from Homs showing how dire the situation has been for its residents. 

In it, one man explains that he was forced to eat weeds as food supplies diminished. Another survived off of thyme and oil and was wearing four pairs of pants to stay warm. 

That same month, a U.N. aid convoy entering Homs was attacked while attempting to bring food and medicine to people in the city trapped by the skirmishes between rebels and the government. (Via BBC)

There may actually be hope for a period of peace in Homs, though. A deal between the Syrian government and rebels in occupied parts of the city will allow the rebels to surrender territory in exchange for safe passage to other rebel-held areas. 

While Al Jazeera reports that the withdraw has been delayed, a cease-fire still holds preventing combat for the time being. Activists reportedly blamed the surrender on a lack of international aid and a harsh siege.

That said, unless foreigners are willing to endure potential conflict and a weed-based diet, it doesn't look like Homs will be booming with tourists any time soon.