Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Battle for Besieged Syrian City of Aleppo Intensifies

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Battle for Besieged Syrian City of Aleppo Intensifies

Article excerpt

BEIRUT * With international diplomacy in tatters and the U.S. focused on its election, the Syrian government and its Russian allies are seizing the moment to wage an all-out campaign to recapture Aleppo, unleashing the most destructive bombing of the past five years and pushing into the center of the Old City.

Desperate residents describe horrific scenes in Syria's largest city and onetime commercial center, with hospitals and underground shelters hit by indiscriminate airstrikes that the U.N. said may amount to a war crime.

Debris covers streets lined with bombed-out buildings, trapping people in their neighborhoods and hindering rescue workers. On Tuesday, activists reported at least 11 people killed in airstrikes on two districts in the rebel-held part of Aleppo.

The battle for Aleppo is unlikely to be an easy one for government forces because the isolated rebels say they are determined to "fight until the end" to defend their neighborhoods. Insurgents outside the city could also attack government troops to try to reduce pressure on comrades trapped inside.

If government forces and their allies capture the rebel-held eastern neighborhoods, it would be a turning point in the 5-year- old civil war that has killed more than 250,000 people and displaced half of Syria's population.

Over the course of the conflict, the government has slowly regained control of major cities. Its aim appears to be securing what some analysts call "useful Syria" a portion containing the four largest cities of Aleppo, Damascus, Homs and Hama, along with its Mediterranean coast.

Aleppo is the last of the major cities still being contested, and it could take government forces from six months to a year to capture it, unless they aim to "annihilate" the politically significant city, a Western diplomat told The Associated Press. The envoy, who is familiar with the cease-fire talks that have faltered, spoke on condition of anonymity because of his government's regulations. …

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