Aleppo: A land of massacres, destruction and despair

Aleppo: A land of massacres, destruction and despair
4 min read
03 November, 2015
Feature: Al-Araby al-Jadeed charts the downfall of Aleppo and the displacement of its residents due to the ongoing Syrian war.
Entire neighbourhoods of Aleppo have been turned to rubble [Anadolu]

The ongoing war in Syria has ravaged the northern city of Aleppo for the past four years.

After being divided between Syrian opposition forces who controlled most of the city, and Bashar al-Assad's troops who controlled the city centre and western neighbourhoods, the brutal battles fought in Aleppo have caused hundreds of thousands of residents to flee and turned entire neighbourhoods to rubble.

The city has also lost many of its cultural and historical landmarks, in addition to the destruction of three industrial areas that employed hundreds of thousands of residents. The city that, until so recently, was the economic and industrial capital of Syria has become the capital of Syrian death and displacement.

     120,000 Syrians were forced to flee their homes in October due to the intense fighting between the opposition and regime forces in Northern Syria

On the move

The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has announced that 120,000 Syrians were forced to flee their homes in October alone due to the intense fighting between the opposition and regime forces in northern Syria.

The UN also revealed that no fewer than 44,568 people were forced to flee southern Aleppo just between 15 and 25 October, due to the heavy aerial bombing carried out by the Syrian regime and Russian warplanes.

Furthermore, the Islamic State group (IS) was able to cut off the main road connecting regime-held areas in Aleppo with Hama on 23 October, putting the 700,000 people who remain in Aleppo's regime-held areas under serious threat of food, medicine and fuel shortages, according to the UN.

These statements reveal that 700,000 people remain in the regime-held areas of Aleppo, while, according to humanitarian organisations, approximately 100,000 residents remain in the rebel-held areas of the city.

Aleppo city had been home to three million people, while the greater Aleppo area had a population above five million.

Fleeing massacres

The main reason for the massive displacement of Aleppo's residents is the daily bombardment and barrel bombings carried out by regime forces since October 2013.

The bombing of densely populated areas such as al-Shaar, Hanano, al-Sakhour and others has pushed residents to flee rather than be the next victims of the indiscriminate bombing.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights documented at least 4,105 deaths in Aleppo due to barrel bombings, up until February of this year. The figure includes 1,208 children and 1,123 women.

Residents of other areas such as Karm al-Jabal, Bustan al-Basha, al-Ashrafiya and others were forced to flee after their neighbourhoods became front lines in the battle between opposition and regime forces, leaving those areas completely abandoned.

However in the Aleppo countryside surrounding the city, in addition to the regime's aerial bombing, residents were subjected to the brutality of Assad's forces that fought to regain ground lost to rebels.

According to a 2014 report by the Syrian Network for Human Rights, regime forces aided by foreign militias committed seven major massacres in the southern Aleppo countryside between 27 February 2013 and 22 February 2014, which led large numbers of villagers to flee to safety.

Furthermore, fighting between the IS group and opposition forces in the Aleppo countryside, including the IS attack on the city of Kobane, north of Aleppo, resulted in approximately 180,000 people being displaced.

Destroyed infrastructure

     The years of regime bombardment of rebel held areas in Aleppo have decimated the infrastructure of this once bustling and modern city

The years of regime bombardment of rebel-held areas in Aleppo have decimated the infrastructure of this once bustling and modern city.

Communications networks, power and water supplies - in addition to schools and other educational institutions - have all been severely damaged by the ongoing fighting.

Furthermore, three industrial areas that used to be the hub of Syria's economic and industrial activity were also severely affected by regime bombardment and systematic looting - driving any surviving businesses to relocate outside the country.

The largest of these industrial zones is the Sheikh Najjar industrial city, north of Aleppo, which houses over 6,000 production facilities - raging from textiles and food to chemicals, and which was under rebel control from the summer of 2012 until May 2014.

Devastated history

The war has not only devastated signs of modern life in Syria's second largest city, but has also wrought havoc on its historical and cultural landmarks.

The covered souk of Aleppo contained more than 5,000 shops, and was listed as the world oldest covered market. It was destroyed by the battles that raged in the city.

Regime bombardment also destroyed the minaret of Aleppo's Grand Mosque, which was constructed in the Umayyad period under the reign of Sulayman bin Abdul Malik in the eighth century.

Fighting between opposition and regime forces has also destroyed numerous other historic sites in Aleppo's old city, reducing hundreds of years of exquisite architecture and history to rubble in a matter of minutes.