Aleppo’s rebel-held districts bracing for all-out siege

Published February 22nd, 2016 - 08:27 GMT
Syrian government forces patrol near Aleppo's thermal power plant after they took control of the area on the eastern outskirts of Syria's northern embattled city from Islamic State (IS) group fighters on February 21, 2016. (AFP/George Ourfalian)
Syrian government forces patrol near Aleppo's thermal power plant after they took control of the area on the eastern outskirts of Syria's northern embattled city from Islamic State (IS) group fighters on February 21, 2016. (AFP/George Ourfalian)

Just one road connects the rebel-held areas of Aleppo with international aid from Turkey, and over the last two weeks, it has been one of the chief targets of the Syrian army as the regime advances, backed by Russian airstrikes bombarding what was Syria's largest city, AFP reported.

On the other side of the border, in Gaziantep, charities in Turkey are preparing to send supplies to to a city south of the border where some 250,000 to 300,000 people are still living despite the incessant violence.

One road to Aleppo's west remains open, Assad al-Ashi of the NGO Baytna Syria, told AFP.

“But it is under fire from all sides so it is still dangerous. It can be cut off at any moment,” al-Ashi said. “Preparations are in full swing to get ready for a full siege."

“Syrian humanitarian organizations – there are around a hundred on the ground – are stockpiling everything they can inside the city."

By al-Ashi's estimates, Aleppo could hold out for about a year in the event of a total siege.

The Syrian army began a massive offensive earlier this month around Aleppo, aiming to recapture the western part of the city which has been controlled by opposition forces.

With the sharp escalation in aerial bombardments, fears have taken hold that the city could face complete encirclement, with thousands of civilians trapped and displaced by the fighting.

Aleppo fighters have stockpiled hundreds of tons of weapons, and provisions of flour, oil, sugar, and medical supplies in the other rebel stronghold of Idlib, which can still be reached by insurgent groups.

The siege and destruction of Homs - the southern city where rebels held their ground for three years before surrendering - offers a bleak reminder of what may be in store for Aleppo.

The other city that comes to mind for many is Grozny, the capital of Chechnya that was obliterated by Moscow during the Chechen wars in the 1990s. With Russia's airstrike campaign in Syria and as the Assad regime's chief ally, Syrians are waiting to see if Moscow is willing to do the same for Assad to have a victory in Aleppo.

“Right now, everything depends on Moscow,” al-Ashi said of Assad’s key international ally.

The recent escalation in Aleppo led to a massive exodus of refugees fleeing to the Turkish border, many of whom are stil stranded at the border after Turkey refused them entry.

“If the U.N., the U.S. and the rest of the world look away, there is no hope,” al-Ashi added.


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