Why did East Aleppo fall so quickly

War in Syria : Aleppo - a year after the battle

The ruler kept his word. In November 2016, through his foreign minister, Bashar al Assad let the world know what he was doing with what is probably the most prominent place of resistance. "We will free Aleppo from the terrorists and restore the unity of the city."

A few weeks later, Syria's once largest economic metropolis was again completely under the control of the regime. Exactly a year ago, on December 21st and 22nd, the last fighters and civilians withdrew from the eastern quarter with their families. Buses took them away, to the surrounding area or to the distant province of Idlib.

The east of the city had defied the ruler for four years, becoming a symbol of the uprising. For months, however, mainly Russian fighter jets shot this fortress ready for a storm, and those trapped were starved to death. Thousands fell victim to this battle. Thousands upon thousands have lost their homes. In the end, Assad had won the battle and thus also achieved the military turning point in the Syrian war.

“The eastern parts of the city, which were formerly controlled by opposition forces, suffer most from neglect. This is Assad's way of punishing us. West Aleppo is not far from us; the people there have enough food and everyday items. There are even discos. They live comfortably there, but at the same time we are struggling to survive. "Abo Omar (55)

In order to achieve his stated goal, the Syrian president shied away from neither means nor ways. In the battle for Aleppo, the ruler offered everything he and his Iranian and Russian allies had in the arsenal. Missiles, bunker breakers, cluster bombs, poison gas - any weapon, no matter how terrible, was used to break the will of the enemy.

This breaking down tactic also included repeatedly attacking civilian targets such as schools and hospitals. Finally, at the end of the fighting, the east of Aleppo was like a ruined ghost town, in which there was hardly any stone left unturned.

Then there was the blockage. A few months before the conquest, Assad's troops were able to close the siege ring around the eastern part of the city. It is estimated that between 250,000 and 300,000 people had to endure without any noteworthy outside help from then on.

It didn't take long before everything was missing that is necessary for life: medication, medical care, clean drinking water and food. Going to school was life-threatening. If there was still teaching at all.

The suffering of the remaining inhabitants - among them there were several thousand fanatical insurgents who were also jihadist - took on dramatic proportions over the months. Stephen O’Brien, the United Nations emergency aid coordinator, called East Aleppo a gigantic "death zone".

At times there were even considerations to set up an airlift to alleviate the suffering of the people. Nobody knows exactly how many people perished as a result of the fighting and various war crimes. International humanitarian law - it didn't matter. Both sides, Assad's opponents as well as his loyal ones, didn't give a damn about the misery of the poor.

"My family reports again and again that so few young men can be seen on the streets. Only women and old people. Apparently the young people were drafted into the military - or they went underground in order not to have to go to the army. Suddenly there is So many Afghans, Iraqis, Iranians, yes, even Chechens. And my family complains that everything has become so expensive. Hardly anyone can afford food or oil for the heating. " Mohammad (26)

And today? If there are no bombs falling from the sky, there are no snipers. The war is over. But according to consistent accounts, its consequences are still visible, noticeable and therefore omnipresent. So the city is divided into two parts.

In the West, which is close to the regime, an almost normal life now seems to be possible. Business people are selling their goods, people are strolling through the streets, the infrastructure is largely intact again. The remaining Christians, who see Assad as their protector, feel liberated. They feared the terror of the Islamists.

It looks very different in East Aleppo. The districts there are still like a gigantic landscape of rubble. Christian Schneider from Unicef ​​Germany recently reported that he had never seen such a degree of destruction. There are very few houses that are still intact. There was hardly any question of reconstruction. Apparently only a few people have returned to their homeland so far.

"On average, we only have electricity for two hours a day. And winter is coming. Many residents are very concerned that we cannot find enough oil and firewood to keep our houses warm." Om Ahmad (48)

Most of the time it is the poorest who have nothing left anyway. And those who are now living there again, in the middle of the bombed-out houses and streets, still need extensive support in order to somehow make ends meet. Many complain that state services such as water and electricity supply are withheld from them because they are considered partisans of the rebels. You feel punished until today. And: Again and again, it is said, people disappear without a trace.

"I wish that Aleppo would be the way it was before the crisis. And I wish that all children are safe." Wahida (11)

Something else strikes and worries the predominantly Sunni-Syrian inhabitants of Aleppo: more and more foreigners are permanently in the city. Assad's Shiite fighters from Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq settle down with their families.

Apparently, the regime wants to cement its victory a year ago, also ethnically and demographically. And set an example of the claim to power with Aleppo. A symbol for the whole country.

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