Five things to know about Syria's Aleppo

2016-09-23 18:42
(File, Zein al-Rifai, AFP)

(File, Zein al-Rifai, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Beirut - Once an economic powerhouse, Aleppo and its surrounding countryside have suffered some of the bloodiest violence in Syria's five-year conflict that has cost more than 300 000 lives.

Here are five facts about the northern city, which has been roughly divided into a regime-controlled west and a rebel-held east since July 2012 and where the government said on Thursday it had launched a new offensive.

War comes to Aleppo in July 2012

In April-May 2011, thousands of students demonstrated in Aleppo, which had so far been spared the unrest in Syria since mid-March.

While the student protests were brutally crushed, rebels took control of several parts of Aleppo province which they would later use as launchpads 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.

Since then, Aleppo has been split between zones controlled by the rebels and those by the regime, with its province divided up between regime, rebels, jihadists and Kurds.

Major stake in conflict

Aleppo, Syria's second city, is strategically vital to all sides in the conflict and the army has made its conquest one of its priorities.

Aleppo's fate is seen as key to the outcome of the war and a possible Russian-backed ground offensive against the rebel-Islamist alliance which controls the east of the city could be a potential turning point.

A devastated city

The once-flourishing city with its globally renowned old town and souk markets has been reduced to a site of devastation.

Since December 2013, the army has been using brutal barrel bomb strikes from helicopters and military planes, targeting opposition-held residential neighbourhoods, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and activists.

Use of this particularly destructive weapon has been denounced by the United Nations and international non-governmental organisations.

Rebels have retaliated with deadly rocket fire on regime-held neighbourhoods.

Medics say health conditions in the rebel part of the city, where several hospitals have been hit, are alarming and that medical staff is falling victim to the regular bombardments.

Last supply route severed

Since July 17, Aleppo's rebel neighbourhoods, home to around 250 000 people, have been totally under siege, after regime forces cut off the last supply route.

The noose has since tightened for the inhabitants, faced with food and petrol shortages as well as soaring prices.

Following a September 12-19 ceasefire which failed to allow the delivery of humanitarian supplies, missiles rained down on rebel-held areas on Friday as the army prepared a ground offensive to retake the city.

The UN's humanitarian chief, Stephen O'Brien, said on Monday he was "pained" that aid convoys had not deployed to eastern Aleppo.

According to the Observatory, at least 130 civilians were killed between July 31 and September 8, while more than 700 fighters also died.

Ancient city

Provincial capital Aleppo is one of the world's oldest cities to have been constantly inhabited since at least 4 000 BC, thanks to its strategic position between the Mediterranean and Mesopotamia, present-day Iraq.

The manufacturing centre, renowned for its textiles, is situated at the crossroads of major trading routes, and numerous civilisations succeeded each other on its soil.

Listed as a Unesco World Heritage site in 1986, Aleppo's citadel, a jewel of Islamic military architecture in the Middle Ages, was built in stages over three centuries from the 10th century.

It was damaged by a blast in July 2015. Two years earlier, fighting destroyed the minaret of the Ummayad mosque and before that a fire ripped through the ancient souk, partially destroying it.

Read more on:    syria  |  syria conflict

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.