The fall of Aleppo on December 14, 2016, signifies a crucial shift in the long and bitter war between the Russian-backed forces of President Bashar al-Assad, and the embattled and fragmented Syrian opposition. After months of relentless bombardment by Russian planes, and fierce urban warfare, East Aleppo succumbed or was “liberated”.
But peace is not immediately imminent. President al-Assad himself said earlier this month that the battle for Aleppo “won’t mean the end of the war in Syria, but it will be a huge step toward this end.”
The focus will just shift to another region of Syria where the opposition is still strong, or to Idlib, where many of the civilians from East Aleppo, will be shifted.
For the civilians who endured months of cruel bombardment that forced them to live in their cellars in darkness, without food or electricity, there is not yet solace.
On Thursday, the UN’s Human Rights Office said that, “We received quite credible reports that hundreds of men had gone missing after they crossed into government-controlled areas.”
The most vulnerable are young men of fighting age.
“We want to leave, but we are not sure how, or when, or even what to do to get out, but I know that we have to get out and fast.”Monzer, a student, wrote via Facebook messaging
Recalling the fall of the Old City of Homs in 2014, Faysal Itani from the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center recently wrote in the New York Times that in the aftermath of the fall of the town, young men were forced in conscription of Assad’s army, the very army that had killed members of their family. Others were forced to re-populate to other areas.
“Residents were eventually allowed to leave to other opposition areas carrying a single bag each. Displacing or detaining populations has become business as usual in areas retaken by the regime.” Itani referred to this as “The Green Bus Strategy.”
The first green buses arrived Thursday to transport the civilians out of occupation, controlled East Aleppo. The night before, there were reports of heavy shelling throughout East Aleppo, according to a spokesperson for The White Helmets, the Syrian Civil Defense, the city’s first responders.
Left behind is a mangled and broken city.