19:54 Nov. 29, 2016
After months of urban warfare, rebel forces of Aleppo are facing ultimate defeat from the regime army
In late November, the Syrian government forces and their allies announced having made their biggest advances in Aleppo since the beginning of the battle over this devastated city.
After finishing an encirclement of rebel-held districts in early September, the president Bashar al-Assad's troops backed by the Russian air forces, Hezbollah militants and Iranian fighters, launched an operation on retaking the besieged part of the strategically important city. In November alone, pro-regime forces dealt over 2000 air strikes and shelled the city with some 7000 artillery rounds, beating down any possible resistance among the devastated urban areas before ground advancements.
According to the statements, on November 26-29, Damascan forces successfully drove the rebels out of the northern-eastern part of the city, gaining victory in several crucial districts including Sakhour, Al-Aziza and Bab al-Neirab. The Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said that around 40% of the rebel-held territory of Aleppo had been taken over recent days. This latest surge put the rebel forces in danger of splitting the remaining areas under their control into two groups, thus softening their ability to fight back. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights called this situation the biggest defeat for the opposition since 2012.
"What happened in the last two days is a great strategic accomplishment by the Syrian army and its allies," a pro-government militia fighter near Aleppo told Reuters.
In the wake of al-Assad's wins, the world media now see no chance for the opposition fighters to avoid an ultimate defeat. Retaking Aleppo, the country's most populated city in pre-war times and its economic heart, would mean the biggest success for al-Assad since the beginning of the uprising in 2011.
Most of the experts expect the rebel stronghold to fall within a few weeks. Nor they have doubts that Bashar al-Assad regime would eventually hold out in the civil war, although would it survive being much less powerful and stable, reigning over deeply split, ruined and de-facto collapsed country. The Russian air force contingent, providing military support for pro-government forces since September 30, 2015, are usually among the main factors that helped regime reach the tipping point in the war.
"Clearly, I cannot deny - this is a military acceleration and I can't tell you how long eastern Aleppo will last," The UN envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura told the European Parliament last week.
Also, retaking the whole of Aleppo would mean restoring control over much of the North West of Syria and thus eventual cutting all supply paths to rebels from Turkey, which is supporting the opposition forces.
Capturing Aleppo before the U.S. president-elect Donald Trump steps into office on January 20 would mitigate a probable unfavourable policy shift on Syria by the new White House administration, the regime official told Reuters.
As urban warfare keeps raging on, the humanitarian situation in the city becomes increasingly catastrophic. According to UN figures, as many as 250,000 civilians are still trapped inside the besieged area, with their food and water supplies running out. The medical infrastructure in the eastern part has been totally destroyed by Russian and Syrian air strikes, as there are no hospitals left in the whole area, the UN humanitarian chief Stephen O'Brien says.
The once-thriving city has been virtually raised to the ground. Among the recent advancements of the Syrian governmental forces, thousands of civilians fled to regime-controlled areas or moved on trying to break the siege and often coming under crossfire between rebels and the army. Up to 10 thousands civilians fled to the Kurdish-held northern district of Sheikh Maqsoud, the YPG forces spokesperson told Reuters on Tuesday.
ALEPPO: LEAVE OR DIE pic.twitter.com/uTbL9SeR9V— Rami Jarrah (@RamiJarrah) November 29, 2016
However, despite the coming defeat in the key Syrian city, the opposition officials say rebels will go on waging a guerilla war instead.
"Aleppo is an important place for the revolution but it's not the last place," George Sabra, Chief negotiator for the High Negotiations Committee told BBC.