Syria – Entire neighborhoods of Syria’s largest city bear battle scars: buildings toppled by government shells, charred tanks blown up by rebels and trash-strewn no-man’s lands where neither side has full control after nearly a month of deadly street battles.
Ruin and tragedy can come in an instant. On Friday, a government fighter jet blasted the top three floors of a five-story apartment building, killing a mother, father and their three boys. Buried in the rubble was a newlywed couple who moved in on their wedding night two months ago.
Rebel fighters crawled through collapsed debris and punched holes in walls while searching the building for Mohammed Ezzo, his wife Ola, and anyone else that might be there. Across the street, the groom’s father gazed at the building and wailed into his hands.
The destruction, witnessed by the Associated Press during a visit to the city Friday, have transformed Aleppo, a city of around 4 million that for much of Syria’s 17-month-old conflict was considered a bastion of support for the administration of President Bashar Assad. Tens of thousands – as many as 200,000 by one U.N. estimate – have fled the city.
Assad’s forces are turning to attack helicopters and fighter jets to dislodge rebels who have held out through weeks of fighting and clash daily with government troops.
Aleppo carries major symbolic and strategic value. It is the main hub of northern Syria and close to the northern countryside where rebels organize and bring in supplies from Turkey. Rebels have sought to control the city’s center, which would further undermine government claims that its professional army can easily quash rebel forces.
Britain’s Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 74 people were killed nationwide Friday, 19 of them in Aleppo province. Activists estimate more than 20,000 have died in the conflict since March 2011.
Also Friday, the United Nations announced that Lakhdar Brahimi, a former Algerian foreign minister and veteran U.N. diplomat, would serve as the world body’s new peace envoy. Brahimi will resume efforts to find a diplomatic solution to what has become an intractable civil war. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is leaving as envoy at the end of August.
The announcement came just as U.N. observers in Syria were preparing to close down their mission. The team – whose deployment was one of the only steps taken under Annan’s peace plan – was supposed to watch over a cease-fire that never took hold. Instead, the observers were left trying to chronicle some of the more egregious instances of bloodshed.
Source: SFGate News