Istanbul— Aleppo is under siege again. Once again, some 300,000 civilians in the rebel-held eastern part of the city must eke out their survival with no fresh produce and a dwindling food supply, in addition to the other perils of life for those in the Assad regime’s political opposition.
That means barrel bombs that destroy houses and bury their children, and missiles that destroy their schools, mosques, and hospitals.
The siege crept up almost without notice over the past 10 days, as the regime closed the Alramousa road, the sole supply route into the old town, first by intense bombing and then by targeted missile attacks just weeks after a surprise rebel offensive had opened it.
State television on August 27 showed a missile attack against vehicles traversing the road that it said were carrying “mercenaries and armed elements.” Two days later, rebel media activists reached the scene, where they found the body of driver Abdo Rawas splayed out on the road, alongside his destroyed truck and its cargo of fruits and vegetables. The activists couldn’t find the body of Adnan, Rawas’s 12-year-old son, who was driving with him. They fear he was incinerated in the attack, leaving no remains.
The siege of Aleppo, like any siege, will come to an end at some point, but the question is on what terms. If the other sieges against other rebel-held towns in Syria are any guide, the terms will be take it or leave it: Surrender or starve.
Take Darayya, a Damascus suburb where a four-year regime siege ended just one week ago. Regime forces had destroyed or damaged practically every building in the town, seized the inhabitants’ farmland, burned their crops, and bombed their sole hospital.
Townspeople were out of food, water, ammunition, and medical care when they agreed to leave their homes with no expectation of returning. More than 5,000 were deported to Idlib province, which is under rebel control, or to camps for the internally displaced in regime-held territory near the Syrian capital.
In Moadamiya, which abuts Darayya, a regime military officer, accompanied by Russian officials, told town representatives on Wednesday that defenders would have to give up their weapons and be sent to Idlib, but anyone who was willing to submit to regime control could stay.
Col. Ghassan Bilal said now that the regime had separated Moadamiya from Darayya, “There will be no more meetings.” If locals did not accept the deal, the opposition Smart news agency reported, he threatened to set the city on fire. A town spokesman said 45,000 are trapped there, along with possibly 2,800 rebel fighters.
The evacuation began Friday, with hundreds of civilians piling into buses to be evacuated to regime shelters. The monitoring group Physicians for Human Rights called the evacuation a war crime. “Nothing about this evacuation is voluntary, and nothing about this evacuation is legal,” said Widney Brown, the PHR programs director. “Under international law, both forced evacuations and besiegement, in which Moadamiya’s thousands of civilians are being deprived of vital food and medicine, are war crimes and crimes against humanity.”