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Fall of Syria's Aleppo won’t mean end of the war

Smoke and flames rise after air strikes on rebel-controlled besieged area of Aleppo, as seen from a government-held side, Aleppo
Smoke and flames rise after air strikes on rebel-controlled besieged area of Aleppo, as seen from a government-held side, Aleppo (Reuters)

The United Nations said on Tuesday that Syrian pro-government forces have carried out execution-style killings of civilians in Aleppo in recent days, citing what it called credible reports on the ground.

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Meanwhile, Syrian government troops, backed by Russian airpower has been making big inroads into the rebel held territory of East Aleppo.

With the advance of the Syrian Army into Eastern Aleppo, more and more civilians are getting trapped between the two frontlines. 

"We have received further deeply disturbing reports that numerous bodies are lying in the streets that residents are not able to retrieve them due to the intense bombardments and the fear of being shot on site,” says UN spokesperson Rupert Colville.

“In all [ ... ] we have received reports of pro-government forces killing at least 82 civilians, including 11 women and 13 children.

At the same time, the ICRC, the International Committee of the Red Cross has people on the ground who are trying their best to help the civilians that are trapped in the conflict.

“There have been intense clashes here in Aleppo which put thousands of people on the move,” says Pawel Krzysiek, of the ICRC, who is in Aleppo.

“Thousands of people have fled to the Western side, and then have been accommodated in the collective shelters in really quite difficult conditions.”

They want to make sure that they kill as many of them as possible. And by the time a deal is reached on allowing the remnants to leave the city, let me tell you, there will not be very many of them.

Aleppo

On the other hand, he explains, people continue to flee to other districts in the Eastern side where the situation is also very dire.

“In the last few days we have seen dramatic reports as the frontlines approach thousands of civilians who were trapped between the fighting sides, between the front lines in the Eastern side, and we are doing as much as we can to ensure that these citizens are protected.”

The ICRC can only exist and operate in these areas when it is completely neutral.It can issue pleas on behalf of the population that is trapped, to stop the fighting, or at least allow some sort of humanitarian corridor.

But in this case, the pleas may fall on deaf ears.

“Neither the Russians, not the Syrian regime have a good record of observance or respect for human rights,” says Hilal Kashim, a Syria specialist with the American University of Beirut.

“So I don't really expect the pleas to make any difference for them. They are on a mission, and they will not stop until  they complete what they are after.”

Chances of a lenient treatment are slim for the rebels.

“2200 rebels have already surrendered to the regime forces,” he says.

“And it is clear that the Russians are delaying the process of allowing what is left of the rebels to leave the city. They want to make sure that they kill as many of them as possible. And by the time a deal is reached on allowing the remnants to leave the city, let me tell you, there will not be very many of them.”

As to what will happen now, many observers, including Hilal Kashim, think that Aleppo can fall as soon as tomorrow, Wednesday. But that does not mean that the war is over.

“I don't think the fall of Aleppo will end the uprising,” says Kashim. “There is no question that it will deliver a severe blow to the opposition, but it will certainly not end the uprising. And I think it will take a long time before the fighting in Syria comes to an end.

“I think after Aleppo, the battle for Raqqa will get underway and also before Raqqa, I think there will be a major battle for Idlib. And once Idlib is taken, the uprising in Syria will turn in a guerilla warfare. Of course the regime will stay in place, but the country will undergo a long process of skirmishes and low-intensity uprisings,” he says.

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