In Syria, a bus ride shows shifting map of war

Passengers sit inside a bus in Qamishli city in Syria
Passengers sit inside a bus in Qamishli city in Syria's Kurdish-held northeast to travel to government-controlled Aleppo, Syria May 7, 2017. (photo by REUTERS)
A new bus service linking Syria's Kurdish-controlled northeast with the government-held west, unthinkable before ISIS was driven from the area, is raising hopes of renewed commerce between two long-estranged parts of a fractured country.

(Reuters) --Kurdish-led authorities hope the new corridor will end the economic isolation of their region, bordered as it is by hostile parties. For Damascus, the corridor holds out the prospect of sourcing fuel and food from the resource-rich northeast.

The service from Kurdish-controlled Qamishli to Aleppo city goes through territory captured from ISIS by Russian-backed Syrian government forces in February. Until then, only an intrepid few would make a journey that entailed crossing through areas held by ISIS and competing rebel groups.

"Before, there were no passengers, very, very few, because of the security conditions," said Ahmad Abou Abboud, the head of Qamishli office of the bus company that started the service in late April.

Demand has risen steadily since the first busses - sleek, white, air-conditioned coaches with purple curtains - went into operation. Weekly trips have increased from two to three, Abboud told Reuters in Qamishli.

A Kurdish official said so far the road was being used only for travel, not trade.

The new bus service is the result of one of the most important shifts in the map of the Syrian conflict in recent times, with the areas controlled by government forces and Kurdish-allied militias being linked up near the city of Manbij.