The Battle of Aleppo is a military confrontation in Aleppo, the largest city in Syria, between the Syrian opposition (including Free Syrian Army, and Sunni fighters, including Levant Front) in partial cooperation with the Army of Conquest, which includes within it Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly al-Qaida’s Syrian branch, against the Syrian Armed Forces of the Syrian Government, supported by Hezbollah and Shiite militias and Russia, and against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units. The battle began on 19 July 2012 and is part of the Syrian Civil War.
The battle’s scale and importance led combatants to name it the “mother of battles” or “Syria’s Stalingrad”. The battle has been marked by the Syrian army’s indiscriminate use of barrel bombs dropped from helicopters, killing thousands of people, and purposeful targeting of civilians, including hospitals and schools, by the Syrian government, its Russian allies and rebels. Hundreds of thousands have been forced to evacuate. On 6 October 2016, President Bashar al-Assad offered amnesty to militants in the city, offering to evacuate them and their families to safe areas; the militants refused this proposal because they did not trust Assad and feared such an arrangement would lead to a purge of Sunni Muslims in Eastern Aleppo.
Before and after photos
In late September 2016, Russia and Syria began performing nightly air raids on rebel-held parts of the city. Russian and Syrian forces were also accused of conducting “double tap” airstrikes which purposefully targeted rescue workers and first responders at hospitals and other civilian structures that they had already bombed, however this is disputed by government and Russian sources. To prevent civilian casualties, Syrian and Russian forces opened up humanitarian corridors to allow the civilian population of Aleppo to evacuate, away from the fighting. During evacuation, several East Aleppo residents reported that evacuating civilians were shelled by rebels. During the 2016 Syrian government offensive, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights warned that “crimes of historic proportions” were being committed in Aleppo.
Following the re-capture of parts of Aleppo by the Syrian government in December, the United Nations received reports that pro-government forces were carrying out massacres of civilians in Eastern Aleppo. At least 82 civilians were killed, including children, described as ‘war crimes’.
The battle caused catastrophic destruction to the Old City of Aleppo, a UNESCO World Heritage site. With over four years of fighting, it represents one of the longest sieges in modern warfare and one of the bloodiest battles of the Syrian Civil War, which left an estimated 31,000 people dead, almost a tenth of the overall war casualties.