How will the fall of Aleppo affect the Syrian civil war?

Losing Aleppo is a major setback for the opposition. The bloody conflict has displaced millions over the last five years.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

The loss of the historic city of Aleppo to regime forces has far-reaching consequences for civilians and rebels.

What is going on in Aleppo?

Syrian regime forces loyal to Bashar al Assad and his allies have taken control of the rebel-held eastern district of Aleppo on Tuesday. Opposition defences collapsed on Monday after heavy bombing forced them to retreat to districts on the west bank of the Queiq River.

More than 90 percent of eastern Aleppo which was previously held by the rebels since 2012 is now controlled by regime forces.

“The situation on the ground is catastrophic. Every moment is worse than before. Right now there are 100,000 civilians trapped in 3-5 square kilometres – the remaining part of the besieged areas. Everything has stopped except the shelling, except the starving, except the cold of the winter, and the fear, and the terror. Everything has stopped,” Ammar al Salmo, leader of the Syrian civil defence in Aleppo, told VICE News.

Civilians are fleeing deeper into rebel held areas of Aleppo. (Reuters)

What will happen after the Syrian regime takes Aleppo?  

It will give Assad’s forces control of Syria’s five largest cities and crush the opposition’s last stronghold in the five-year civil war.  

Assad recently said that taking Aleppo “won’t mean the end of the war in Syria, but it will be a huge step towards this end.” When Assad takes back the city, it could plunge Syria into a deeper crisis and put those who challenge the regime at greater risk.

Civilians and rebel fighters alike will either be punished or will be forced to flee the city to join the thousands displaced by the fighting. 

“This will not end the war, nor will it suppress the opposition, but it will end the rebellion as a strategic threat to the regime of Bashar Assad and push the insurgency into a greater reliance on extremists, creating more space for international terrorists and protracting the war,” Kyle Orton, a research fellow from the think tank Henry Jackson Society said.

The capture of Aleppo gives Assad's forces control over one of Syria's largest cities. (Reuters)

Where does this leave the opposition?  
Losing control of Aleppo, is the opposition forces’ worst defeat and means they have no significant presence in any of Syria’s main cities. But they do hold much of Syria’s countryside, west Aleppo, and Idlib province in the northwest.

The opposition said losing Aleppo would not weaken its resolve to remove Assad from power.

“If Assad and his allies think that a military advance in certain quarters of Aleppo will signify that we will make concessions, then that will not happen. We will not make any concessions,” Syria’s chief opposition coordinator, Riad Hijab said.

Author: Azaera Amza

TRTWorld and agencies