Last month the Syrian Government of President Bashar al-Assad retook the Syrian second city of Aleppo after four years of siege. Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city had, up until the 13th of December been controlled by the Syrian Democratic Council and the Kurdish Authority with smaller allied groups that oppose President Assad. Aleppo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it was known to be an ethnic and religious melting pot having been called the ‘New York City of Syria’;before the war Aleppo had a population of 2.5 million and was considered the economic powerhouse of Syria. The siege began in July of 2012 when rebels from neighboring villages occupied the city and the government began to bomb Aleppo trying to flush the rebels out. The siege has now ended with a government victory forcing the rebels to retreat to neighboring Idlib Province.
The rebels had held onto Aleppo with a firm grasp for over four years of continuous siege but their grip began to slip in mid 2016. By November the Syrian Government, with the aid of Russian airstrikes, pushed the rebels out of the northern portions of the city, taking over a third of previously held rebel territory. Towards the end of November the government began to launch its final offensive with Syrian soldiers, Iranian-backed Shia militia groups, and Russian airstrikes helping make quick progress. On the 9th of December the Syrian Government announced that they had captured all of the western portions of the city as well as 75% of Eastern Aleppo and by the 12th of December the Rebel Alliance had lost 90% of their territory in Aleppo. The Russian Foreign Ministry announced that all remaining rebels and citizens in Aleppo would be allowed to evacuate to the rebel-controlled Idlib Province to the west of the city. The Russian Foreign Minister’s announcement marked the end of the siege.
As the fog of the siege lifts it can be seen what has become of what used to be Syria’s second largest city. The once robust population of 2.5 million has become a dramatically reduced group of 40,000 as estimated by The Guardian. The city that UNESCO once called one of the most beautiful cities in the world has largely been reduced to rubble. The future of Aleppo is not clear, seeing as the war is not over yet and extremist groups such as the so-called Islamic State still control much of Syria. The once illustrious ancient city that was a hub of Syrian culture and economic power is now a war-ravaged place that is a representative of many Syrian cities consumed by the Syrian Civil War.