In an editorial, The Guardian says: Aleppo was once Syria’s second largest city, with 2 million inhabitants and a vibrant tourist industry around its 13th-century citadel, its Umayyad mosque, its ancient souk. After nearly five years of civil war, the city is an open wound, the bleeding symbol of a country’s descent into hell. It has been cleaved by a frontline, endured barrel bombs and artillery fire, and in many places been reduced to a landscape of ruins. Its estimated 300,000 remaining inhabitants struggle daily for bare necessities. And their nightmare has recently got worse. Fighting has again flared up in the past few weeks, destroying two medical facilities that offered rare relief, especially to children. The ceasefire brokered from Wednesday morning promised a mere 48 hours of relief even if it were honoured, and in practice observance has been patchy.
The backdrop is the near collapse of Syria’s two-month-old partial truce, negotiated by Russia and the US. At one level, Aleppo is one battleground of many, in a seemingly endless war of attrition; and yet the fate of a nation could hinge on this city. For Aleppo is a centre for the anti-Assad groups that are meant to be part of the UN-negotiated settlement, if it ever materialises. It is also because of Aleppo’s strategic location, close to the border with Turkey, which has acted as a lifeline for supply lines and refugee movements. If Aleppo falls, all hopes for a genuine peace negotiation will be crushed. Diplomatic efforts in Geneva and elsewhere have never seemed quite so divorced from realities on the ground as they are now. [Continue reading…]