Aleppo the key to war and peace in Syria

Aleppo the key to war and peace in Syria
2 min read
16 April, 2016
The city of Aleppo is key to all sides fighting in Syria's five-year civil war and holds "the key to war and peace", according to a monitor.
Once Syria's economic capital, the city has seen some of the worst fighting. [Getty]
One of the oldest cities in the world to have been constantly inhabited since at least 4,000 BC, Aleppo has since mid-2012 seen some of the worst fighting in a war that erupted on the heels of an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

Given its importance to all sides fighting in Syria’s conflict, Aleppo holds the key to both war and peace, according to Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman. The city has been divided into zones held by the regime in the west, and opposition areas in the east, since a rebel offensive in July 2012.

"The main battleground is Aleppo province. Assad must control Aleppo if he doesn't want to be president of half a country and that the north-south divide become permanent," Syria expert Fabrice Balanche told AFP.

Since the truce began on February 27, Islamic State, Al-Nusra Front, the regime and loyalist militia, Kurdish fighters and rebels are all battling each other on several fronts in the province.

After an onslaught in the early 1980s by the Assad regime against an uprising led by the Muslim Brotherhood, the city was quick to return to prosperity thanks to its ability to develop commercial, industrial and cultural activities at a time of state-controlled liberalisation of the economy.
After an onslaught in the early 1980s by the Assad regime against an uprising led by the Muslim Brotherhood, the city was quick to return to prosperity
Things went differently in 2011. Rebels took advantage of a student demonstration in April-May 2011 (that was brutally crushed) taking control of several parts of Aleppo province which they would later use as launch pads for a massive July 2012 offensive on the city.

The army fought back with tanks, leaving Aleppo divided into east and west. The first air strikes in Syria's war followed.

Aleppo's residents have paid a terrible price for the country's war. Prior to the war, there were 2.5 million people living in the city; now one million remain.

Most recently, 30,000 people were forced to flee as IS jihadists battled rebels near the Turkish border in 48 hours this week, according to Human Rights Watch.

The historic sites in Aleppo have of course not been spared. Among those that have been damaged or destroyed are the ramparts that surround the city's renowned 13th century citadel, the minaret of the historic Omayyades mosque, ancient shops in the city's souk, and the iconic Carlton Hotel.