The worst is yet to come for Syria’s largest city, Aleppo

BuzzFeed reports: With the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad moving closer to encircling the rebel-held parts of the city — the most important patch of territory the opposition holds — rebels and analysts expect it to turn to the brutal tactics it has employed throughout the war. As in the past, the primary victims will be civilians.

Sending troops into rebel-held Aleppo would be a costly move for the Syrian military and its allies, said Firas Abi Ali, the head of Middle East and North Africa forecasting at IHS Country Risk in London. Instead, they are likely to attempt to starve out the rebels and civilians inside while using artillery and airstrikes to bring them to their knees. “They’re not going to dedicate the amount of resources required to capture a city of that magnitude. They’re going to go with starvation and bombardment tactics,” he said. “This is the standard military tactic developed by Assad.”

The government has spent years pounding Aleppo with airstrikes, raining chaos down on civilians. It also has notoriously employed a siege strategy in places like Madaya, near Damascus, and the central city of Homs, where starving rebels and civilians eventually agreed to surrender. Yet the potential for civilian suffering in Aleppo is far larger now. “There are still several hundred thousand people in the city and the province. The scale of the suffering here can be much greater,” Abi Ali said. “Assad can do much more damage, and he is willing to inflict enormous pain.”

Rami Jarrah, a Syrian journalist and activist who has worked extensively in Aleppo, said the government plan seemed to be “to promote as much desertion of the city as possible now in build up to performing a total siege of Aleppo. Sieges have proven to be successful in terms of draining the opposition into submission.” [Continue reading…]

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