According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the fighting ended Thursday at 4 am. Rebel sources confirmed that a ceasefire had been brokered and evacuations of remaining rebel forces and civilians were underway after the previous truce had been broken during Wednesday’s fighting.
The evacuation was part of the cease-fire agreement and is considered essentially a rebel surrender of the city to the government forces, fighting on behalf of Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad.
Assad has had massive help in the Aleppo campaign from Russian forces, particularly the Russian Air Force, which has ruthlessly bombed Aleppo into pulp, creating a civilian crisis that has received significant attention in the West.
The surrender of the city has been expected for several days now. The original ceasefire was broken when pro-Assad militias attacked the agreed-upon assembly areas for evacuation, executing 79 people. Sniper fire opened the ambush, followed by government and Russian artillery and air strikes. UN High Commissioner for Human rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said that the attack on evacuating civilians in defiance of the ceasefire was likely a war crime, a position Turkish President Recep Erdogan echoed:
“While the reasons for the breakdown in the ceasefire are disputed, the resumption of extremely heavy bombardment by the Syrian government forces and their allies on an area packed with civilians is almost certainly a violation of international law and most likely constitutes war crimes.” – Turkish President Erdogan
The slaughter within the city by government and Russian forces reached levels unheard of even in the particularly brutal Syrian Civil war, causing a growing international outcry. In victory, the government forces proved as vicious and cruel as they were in battle, leading to widespread reports of extrajudicial reprisal killings that earned a UN condemnation:
“Government forces and their allies are also reportedly entering civilian homes and killing people.” – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Some reports say that as many as 6,000 people, including young teens, have been rounded up for execution by Assad’s army. The behavior of government and Russian forces has prompted harsh criticism worldwide, with the US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, asking, “Is there nothing that can shame you?”
WATCH: Samantha Power’s statement to the UN
“Russia has imposed its will on Syria. For those misguided few who somehow believe Russia is a new guardian of Christian civilization, they should pay close attention to its allies — a genocidal Alawi Muslim dictator and Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of Islamic terrorism.” – David French, National Review
Russia has clearly won a major foreign policy victory, though even Assad openly admits the end of the war remains elusive. What cannot be in doubt is that Assad’s conquest of Aleppo, with Russian aid, was a battle fought with a savagery that is rarely seen in the current era.
Russia is establishing a new hegemony in the Middle East, alongside terrorists and dictators, whom it increasingly treats as simply proconsuls in a new, extended empire. As David French pointed out, this is not likely to be a victory for America, though, and Russia appears little interested in putting a halt to ISIS or genuine terrorism, but merely expanding its list of sordid clientele.