24 December 2016 13:17:44 IST

Starry nights and empty streets in Syria

Idlib used to bustle with people before the Syrian war began in 2011

Stars fill the night sky over the Syrian rebel-held city of Idlib, and the streets are eerily quiet. The calm might not last much longer.

Now that Syrian government forces have recaptured Aleppo in a crushing offensive, they are likely to turn their attentions to Idlib. Thousands of refugees from Aleppo have been evacuated there, and UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura has warned the city could face the same fate as Aleppo.

Idlib used to bustle with people before the Syrian war began in 2011, but now few residents venturing outside their homes at night.

Sometimes aircraft can be heard overhead. Syrian and Russian warplanes and helicopters have carried out strikes for months against rebels in Idlib province, which lies southwest of Aleppo.

Resident Abdullah Haj Asaad, 29, says he no longer sends clothes from his sewing shop to the markets at night.

“Nowadays, we can only send the finished goods in the morning, cars stop driving at night because of thieves and bandits fearing looting and theft,” he said.

“I used to go out with my friends to cafes at night and stay up until dawn, we never used to check our watches.”

But now “we hang out at a different friend’s house every weekend and sleepover until morning,” he added.

“In case of emergencies we can get out at night, but that’s still very risky.”