Why Aleppo fell so fast

The roar of weapons verse three months ago. Rebellious East of Aleppo, came under the control of the Syrian army. The dome of fear and silence that sets the Assad regime on its territory, had again covered the Eastern parts of the city. However, among the Syrian opposition still thundering echoes of defeat. What is the reason for which became a surprise for many, the escape of armed groups? As the East of Aleppo was taken just over a month, from 15 November to 15 December, and Darayya in the suburbs of Damascus resisted the loyalist siege for almost four years?

In the camp of Assad’s opponents is not subsiding controversy. “Aleppo was not taken by military means. It is the result of international decisions. The city could resist another six months, it was full of weapons. But entire neighborhoods were left in virtue of secret agreements,” — said Abdelahad Stafa, Vice-President of the Syrian national coalition (the main opposition Association). Thus, he tacitly accuses Turkey, which in the summer of 2016 went on a rapprochement with Russia, an ally of Damascus.

“We lost because the revolution was not able to give people hope — objection Director of the NGO “Afak” Osama, Shorbagi. Among the armed groups there were too many bandits and those who profited from the war. Take prison of the rebel groups. There was much less abuse and violence than in the prisons of the regime, but be proud of them too it is impossible”.

The foreign conspiracy? Internal problems? The fate of Aleppo was decided on 26 and 27 November, when the Eastern front collapsed, the area Masakin-Khan. Moreover, this residential block, it seemed easy to defend: high house, nice view approaches. Is where to hide from the bombing and to place snipers.

“A shame and a mystery”

“The fall of the front — a shame and a mystery, says Osama, Shorbagi. I know one of the people who was in charge. Repulsed the first assault, he requested reinforcements. No one came. Seeing that the path is open, Assad’s troops rushed forward. This was the signal for the flight.”

The most likely explanation for the departure of Masakin-Khan is the conflict between the Islamist group “Noureddine Zenk” (banned in Russia — approx.ed.) and more moderate “Tajamu Pustakam” of the “Free Syrian army”, which is supported by the U.S. and Arab allies. Shortly before the start of the offensive, the Islamists (they in the past received weapons from the US, but were subsequently rejected because they arranged excesses) seized the armories of their opponents.

The attack was conducted jointly with “Fatah al-sham” (a terrorist organization banned in Russia — approx.ed.) and undermined the morale of the brigade “Mustaqim”, which was one of the best armed groups in Aleppo. “We held nearly 90 points on the front line, says political consultant brigades Zakaria Malagigi. — But here our soldiers were without ammunition. We passed some of the “Ahrar al-sham” (a terrorist organization banned in Russia), but it was not enough. If “Since” and “Fatah al-sham” is not attacked us, Aleppo would not fell.”

At least, not so fast. Because the desire to take control of the country’s second city Damascus spared no expense. All the weapons and equipment that was tested last five years, Syria was involved, compared to 45 square kilometers East of Aleppo, which led to hundreds of casualties among the civilian population. “Conventional” bombs, incendiary, fragmentation, chemical, armor piercing, etc.

According to the Syrian Observatory of human rights, in 2016, on the Eastern Aleppo fell more than 4 thousand of barrel bombs, including 225 for the first two weeks of December. A favorite target of the attack became the hospital. The Syrian-American medical society, a pillar of assistance to doctors from Aleppo, counted 70 blows of the health facility in the second half of 2016.

Damascus and Moscow denied the use is prohibited by international conventions weapons like cluster bombs and chlorine, but it will specify a series of certificates and a detailed report of the us expert group of the Atlantic Council: video, eyewitness accounts, testimonies of doctors, bomb fragments, etc.


In another report, the NGO Human Rights Watch has shown how attacks with the use of chlorine has shifted in the period from mid-November to mid-December from the East to the West to rebel-held territory, with the progress of Assad’s forces. “All the methods that were used in Darayya and, earlier, in HOMS, was repeated in Aleppo, only on a larger scale,” notes the Atlantic Council, Recalling that the destruction of the hospital Darayya broke the resistance of the population and accelerated the capture of the city in August last year.

Taught that defenders of Eastern Aleppo could try to bring a maximum of civilians. Their number was estimated UN 250 thousand, however, most likely, was from 150 to 200 thousand, as shown by the final calculations (110 thousand found refuge in under the government’s control of the Western part of the city, 35 thousand left the territory of the rebels in and around the city, and the number of remaining unknown to us). Care most of them from Aleppo would facilitate the task of the soldiers.

Whatever it was, that path did not go. In shortsightedness and naivety commanders to the last thought that their Western backers would not allow the siege of the city. Played a role and cynicism. Although extremists “Fath al-sham” were a minority (only a few hundred people from 7 — 8 thousand fighters), they actively spread their ideas, including using organized in the summer of 2016 free training. In the last days of the fighting, some members of the movement and other radical groups were not given to the residents to take refuge in the West of the city.

Diplomatic turn of Turkey also undermined the positions of the armed groups. In August, Ankara has forced hundreds of fighters out of Aleppo and Idlib in Jerablus to participate in offensive operations against the Islamic state (banned in Russia as a terrorist organization, approx.ed.). All this created a snowball effect. “People woke up this morning and saw under the Windows of the soldiers, on conditions of anonymity says aware of the situation in Eastern Aleppo. — The rebels have left or defected to the other camp”.

The lack of tactics and will

After the victory of Damascus, supporting the power of the media presented the transition of several soldiers from Eastern Aleppo to the West as a sign that the ranks of the rebels teem with spies. The opposition believes otherwise. “Just to say that arms was enough, but the tactics and the will is not enough, says Osama, Shorbagi. I was there a week before the start of the siege. The rebels have not even produced a serious network of tunnels”.

Some groups like “Noureddine Zenk” was focused primarily on military business. After taking Eastern Aleppo in the ring his men to subjugate all stocks of cigarettes, and then gradually began to sell them as soon as the prices went up. In addition, they have captured the “Tajamu Pustakam” Arsenal was later found intact by the regime. “Armed groups have made a lot of mistakes, — said 28-year-old activist Salah al-Askar, which until recently remained in Aleppo, and is now in a refugee camp in Turkish Gaziantep. In 2014 and 2015, we put the plays with criticism of those cashing in on the rebellion. We even organized demonstrations against the “Fatah al-sham”.

This is the main failure of the rebels from Aleppo. “They were in the minority and unable to convince the public of the importance of alternatives, which, according to them, was represented,” says Assad al-Achi from NGOs Baytna Syria. “We need to work on themselves,” — emphasizes Osama, Shorbaji, which, despite everything, continues to believe that “the revolution will begin again in a few years.”