Aleppo was once the largest city in Syria, with a population of around 2.3 million, it served as the center of the country’s finance and industry, making it a critical part of the countries economy. The old city of Aleppo was also named as a world heritage site but sadly, much of the city’s historical architecture has been devastated during the recent conflict.
In July 2012, the civil war in Syria spread through to Aleppo and the city quickly became one of the main battlegrounds for government forces and the rebels. During this period, the city was roughly divided into two sections, with government forces controlling the western part of the city and rebel forces controlling the eastern part.
Aleppo was left in this state of division for more than four years until 22nd December 2016, when Syria’s government, helped by Russian forces, defeated the rebels and took back control of the city. They did this through a series of airstrikes and ground attacks.
Why did Russia help the Syrian government forces?
Russia announced in 2015 that it would be supporting the Syrian government with the conflict in Syria. Historically, both Russia and Syria have maintained a strong relationship since 1971, when the Soviet Union built a naval base in the Syrian city of Tartus. Syria has also been a consistent buyer of Russian firearms, in fact from 2007-2011, 78% of Syria’s military imports were bought from Russia. As tensions grow between Russia and the west (UK and US), this intervention also gave Russia the chance to showcase its military capabilities.
What happened to the people of Aleppo?
In the run-up to this defeat and in the time shortly after, a large-scale evacuation of the people of Aleppo began. This evacuation was halted though, because the Syrian government said that the rebels were not sticking to the agreed terms of how the evacuation should happen. After some negotiating, the evacuation began again. However, stories then emerged of more attacks and fighting during this time, putting the safety of innocent civilians trying to flee the city, at risk. The large-scale fighting within the city left people without food, medical supplies and in many cases, clean water. Buildings, hospitals and schools were bombed and more than 100 were killed during this time, although exact figures are yet to be released.
Lots of people who were stuck in Aleppo at the time began tweeting about what was happening, with many saying they feared for their safety as bombs were dropped over the city. You can see some of their stories and tweets here.
On the 22nd December, government forces announced that the evacuation was complete and they had defeated rebel forces, re-gaining control over the city. This was a turning point in the countries long-drawn civil war as it means that president Assad now had control over four of the biggest cities in Syria.
What will happen now?
Although the Syrian government have managed to take back the city of Aleppo, the rebel fighters still control large parts of the country and the war is far from over. The U.N. estimates about 400,000 people have been killed in Aleppo since the battle first started back in March 2011.