The six-month siege of Eastern Aleppo is almost over. The Russians are claiming that more than 50,000 civilians have streamed out of the remaining rebel stronghold over the last two days as the Syrian army now controls about 95% of the city.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said that Syrian troops have suspended their offensive to allow for the evacuation of civilians, but the activist-run Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says heavy clashes are still underway.
Konashenkov said that on Saturday alone more than 20,000 civilians left rebel-controlled Aleppo districts through humanitarian corridors. The military is live streaming images from drones showing the exit.
Backed by Russia and other allies, Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces have driven the rebels from nearly all of eastern Aleppo, which was captured by the opposition in 2012.
The U.N. human rights office has expressed concern about reports that hundreds of men have vanished after crossing from eastern Aleppo into government-controlled areas.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and European and Arab diplomats are meeting members of Syria’s opposition in Paris on Saturday. Kerry said he is working to ensure their safety and to save Aleppo “from being absolutely, completely destroyed.”
U.S. and Russian military experts and diplomats are meeting in Geneva on Saturday to work out details of the rebels’ exit from eastern Aleppo.
The Russian military’s Center for Reconciliation in Syria said Russian sappers have continued defusing mines in the city, clearing 8 hectares (about 20 acres) since Friday.
Kerry, as usual, is late. How much more destroyed can Aleppo get, given that it’s been pounded by barrel bombs and artillery, gassed, and bombed by the Russian air force?
Kerry is also delusional about Assad allowing the rebels to leave the city—except in body bags. Assad is not going to take the chance that he will fight these same rebels somewhere else.
And so, the total destruction of a city of two million souls was affected while the world sat back and watched. The city was the last urban territory held by the rebels, making its capture vital to the psychology of the opposition. Without an urban base of support, the rebels now appear to be little better than a rural insurgency—a lot easier for Assad to handle while he sits atop the rubble heap that used to be Syria.