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The Syrian Ministry of Tourism Invites You to Enjoy a Lovely Vacation in Its War Zones

The Syrian Ministry of Tourism hopes that vacationers will forget about the country's brutal civil war long enough to enjoy jet skiing.

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A jet ski zooms across turquoise waters. Vacationers gather under umbrellas on a scenic beach. The camera pans to rows of palm trees planted on lush green grass.

Mysteriously missing from the one-minute, 43-second video released by the Syrian Ministry of Tourism promoting vacation spots in the coastal town of Tartus? Damage from Islamic State suicide bombings that killed dozens in that very town this summer.

And, of course, there’s no mention that just 60 miles away, in the city of Homs, Syrian civilians are desperately sheltering themselves from a rain of government artillery and bombs.

The video is one in a series of promotional clips released by the Tourism Ministry’s YouTube page in recent weeks, in an apparent effort to lure tourists back to the war-torn country, where hundreds of thousands of people have been killed since 2011. Its aerial shots of the once-thriving resort town could not differ more starkly from aerial footage of Homs released by Russian news outlet RT in January, which shows a city completely leveled by incessant bombardments.

The U.S. State Department has urgently asked all U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to the country, and a statement on its website says the government “strongly recommends that U.S. citizens remaining in Syria depart immediately.”

But maybe this week’s tourism video is all that State needs to change its mind.

Photo credit: YouTube screengrab/Syrian Ministry of Tourism

Siobhán O’Grady is a freelance journalist working across sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy. @siobhan_ogrady

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