The battle of Aleppo or Aleppo war–declared the mother of all battles by warring forces–is a conflict in the largest city of Syria.
The warring factions include the Syrian regime, Lebanese Hezbollah, Russia, and several militias on one side, and Syrian rebels on the other. It is the fiercest battle in the entire conflict marked by the regime’s indiscriminate use of barrel bombs on defenseless civilian population resulting in thousands of deaths.
Rebels have also been accused of bombarding government held districts in Aleppo. The Aleppo war has caused wide scale destruction to the Old city which is a world heritage site.
Aleppo was Syria’s largest city prior to the outbreak of civil war. It was the commercial and industrial hub of the country with a population of 2.5 million people. Time magazine described it as the commercial capital of the country. Aleppo was a multicultural and multi ethnic city in which Arabs lived in harmony with Iranians, Turkmen, Kurds and Armenians. When protests started in Syria again the government of Bashar al Assad, Aleppo remained neutral for at least one year. In May 2012, people of Aleppo also began protesting against the government.
The beginning of armed conflict in Aleppo:
After 16 months of civil war, the rebels finally entered Aleppo in July 2012. There were 18 battalions and al-Tawhid brigade was the largest and the most active. Rebels were disorganized and resorted to looting supplies which made them unpopular with the civilian population. The rebels also included jihadis Iraq and the rest of the world. The regime of Bashar Al Assad engaged in heavy fighting with the rebels but lost support of the wealthy class. Over the next few years, as fighting raged in Aleppo, the city became divided between the regimes controlled areas and the rebel held areas of the city.
Current situation in Aleppo:
It is now or never for Aleppo since the fighting here has reached a decisive phase. The city is divided in regime and rebel held areas and has seen heavy fighting during the past few days.
The importance of Aleppo hinges on many factors. First of all, the city has prestige value because whoever controls Aleppo will be controlling the financial hub of the country. But, there is more at stake in Aleppo than prestige.
The city lies in the north only miles away from the border with Turkey which makes it a very important conduit for supplies including food, weapons and fuel. In July, regime forces managed to encircle the rebels and choked off their supplies. However, the rebels managed to mount a counter attack and cut through the government siege.
There are hundreds of thousands of civilians inside the city who are trapped within the rebel held districts. These people are at the mercy of indiscriminate bombings by Russian and Syrian aircrafts.
The humanitarian crisis in Aleppo is beginning to take catastrophic proportions. On the other hand, if the rebels are able to consolidate their recent gains, they could lay siege to the regime held areas in the East which will compound the risk for more than a million civilians in those areas. If the situation in Aleppo does not improve, it may start another refugee exodus towards Europe.
There are many rebels factions inside Aleppo who are also fighting among themselves for the control of the city. To the East of Aleppo, the US is engaged in fighting ISIS.
In the North-east, there are Kurdish fighters who are also backed by the US. If the situation gets worse, they might decide to gain more territory. Such a scenario will not be acceptable for Turkey.
In short, the future of the entire Middle East hinges on Aleppo war and who becomes the ultimate victor of this grounding battle.