Syrian Govt Seizes Control of Aleppo

This is a major turning point for the Assad government

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A destroyed area in Aleppo. Credit: Foreign and Commonwealth Office - Flickr
The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency announced that the army has taken full control of the besieged city of Aleppo with “restoration of security and stability to Aleppo after liberating it from terrorism and terrorists.” The government is now in control of major Syrian cities such as Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Damascus, and Latakia.

This is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s biggest victory since the uprising began in 2011. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) confirmed that “all civilians who wished to be evacuated have been, as well as the wounded and fighters”. The ICRC added that 34,000 people had been evacuated from the rebel areas of Aleppo.

Over the past week, 35,000 rebels and civilians have fled rebel-held areas said the U.N. Heavy snowfall, strong winds, and the poor condition of vehicles hampered the evacuation efforts.

The civil war between the government and rebels has led to almost half a million deaths with millions forced to flee their homes.

Earlier, rebel forces had seized eastern Aleppo and the government would control the west. Backed by the Iranian military and Russian air-strikes, they were able to gain control of the east by mid-November till a ceasefire was ordered. Russia and Iran were backing Assad in the war with Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and some parts of the West backing the opposition.

Although Assad claims that the victory is not only “for Syria but also for those who really contribute to the fight against terrorism, notably Russia and Iran”, Ahmad al-Khatib, an opposition media activist, told AP that “we’ll never forget and we will never forgive.”  “Let the world bear witness that Bashar Assad has killed and displaced and destroyed Aleppo, and he celebrates in his victory over the blood and offspring of Aleppo … with the agreement of the Arab and Western nations,” he said on Twitter.

Many human rights groups have accused the Syrian army and the Russian air-force of war crimes. In September this year, Assad’s regime dropped chemical weapons in eastern Aleppo targeting civilians. In the last few months, Syrian and Russian aircraft dropped leaflets over eastern Aleppo, warning those that didn’t leave would be “annihilated”. Last month, no hospital was left functioning in Aleppo after an air-raid hit a children’s hospital. Amnesty International had said, “Syrian government forces, with Russian support, have callously attacked residential homes, medical facilities, schools, markets, and mosques as part of a deliberate military strategy.”