Aleppo, Dec 14: The Syrian government’s capture of Aleppo reveals a once-happening Syrian city that now lies in ruins after almost five years under the control of anti-Bashar al-Assad rebels. Here’s a look at the key events in the now-destroyed city since the commencement of the uprising. In March 2011, protests erupted in Daraa city over the detention of youth accused of painting anti-government graffiti on the walls of their school. On March 18, security forces opened fire on protestors in the city, killing four people in what activists regard as the first deaths of the uprising.
Demonstrations spread, as did the crackdown by President Assad’s forces, eventually igniting a full-scale civil war. A year later, rebel fighters seized Aleppo. The intense fighting caused an estimated one million civilians to flee. Another half million were displaced in the first year of the conflict.
In October 2012, the UN negotiated a truce. The bitter fighting destroyed cultural and historic sites, including the Grand Umayyad mosque, which both sides fought to control.
In January 2013, bodies began washing up on the banks of Aleppo’s Queiq River, in Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood. Human Rights Watch said the victims were most likely killed in government-controlled areas.
In April 2013, Aleppo’s ancient Citadel, used by government forces as a base, came under rebel fire. The government targeted the Umayyad Mosque, suspecting rebels were using it as a base.
Rebels united against the Islamic State in January 2014, driving the extremists out of Aleppo. The regime forces exploited the fighting to push the rebels back. Rebels tunnelled beneath a hotel used as a government command and control centre in May 2014. The government’s barrel bomb campaign on eastern Aleppo intensified.
In March 2015, rebels blew up the Air Force building after digging a tunnel. The Army of Conquest, Jaish al-Fatah, which brought together rebels and Al Qaeda-linked fighters, seized Idlib city.
Russia launched airstrikes in October 2015, to bolster Assad’s forces. Syrian troops also launched an offensive. Iraqi, Lebanese and Iranian militias also threw their weight behind Assad, setting the stage for a wider offensive.
In July 2016, the government and allied forces imposed a full siege of the city, home to an estimated 250,000 people. Rebels broke the siege for couple of weeks from the southern front, but it was re-imposed by August. A cease-fire was negotiated by Russia and the US in September 2016, that held for few days. Later, an airstrike hit a humanitarian convoy.
Russia announced it suspended airstrikes on Aleppo in October 2016, and desigted humanitarian corridors, urging the rebels and residents to leave. The rebels rejected the offer and the pro-Assad forces continued airstrikes, intensifying the air raids in November 2016. Syrian troops and allied forces launched a major ground offensive. Rebel defences crumble and thousands flee. Now, in December 2016, when a ceasefire deal has effectively ended the brutal battle for the city the Great Grand Umayyad Mosque, that once stood proudly in Aleppo — and was enlisted as a Unesco Heritage Building, has been reduced to rubble. (IANS)