Aleppo liberated: What shaped Syria’s war-torn city since March 2011
After the government’s capture of the rebel-held east of the city, here’s a look at key events in Aleppo since the start of Syria’s uprising nearly six years ago:
2011: Demonstrations begin against Bashar Al Assad
March: Protests erupt in the southern city of Daraa over the detention of a group of boys accused of painting anti-government graffiti on a school wall. On March 18, security forces fire on a protest in Daraa, killing four people in what activists regard as the first deaths of the uprising. Demonstrations spread, as does the crackdown by President Bashar Assad’s forces, eventually igniting a full-scale civil war.
2012: Rebels seize eastern Aleppo
July: Rebel fighters seize eastern Aleppo, dividing the city. The intense fighting that follows, including almost daily barrel bombs dropped by government warplanes on the poorer and more densely populated east, causes an estimated 1 million civilians to flee. Another half million are displaced inside the eastern part of the city in the first year of the conflict.
October: The UN negotiates a short-lived truce during the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday. Fighting damages cultural and historic sites, including the Grand Umayyad mosque, which both sides sought to control.
December: Rebels launch an offensive that expands their presence in Aleppo province and secures supply lines to the Turkish border. They seize a number of military and air bases, increasingly isolating government forces. All flights from Aleppo airport are suspended after al-Qaida-linked fighters threaten to shoot down civilian planes.
2013: Government begins an unprecedented campaign of dropping barrel bombs on Aleppo city and surrounding areas
January: At least 147 bodies wash up on the banks of Aleppo’s Queiq River, apparently killed by government security forces.
April: Aleppo’s ancient Citadel, used by government forces as a base, comes under rebel fire. The government targets the Umayyad mosque minaret, suspecting rebels were using it. Amid the fighting, passageways between the two sides of the divided city emerge, allowing an informal link for residents, but also turning deadly at times, as sniper fire kills many.
August: Insurgents gain control of the Aleppo-Damascus highway, tightening the siege on the government part of the city. Residents of eastern Aleppo take food to relatives in western Aleppo.
October: Poor coordination and infighting weaken the rebels’ ranks. That winter, Islamic State group militants clash with the rebels, establishing a presence in the eastern part of the city.
December: The government begins an unprecedented campaign of dropping barrel bombs on Aleppo city and surrounding areas, driving more people out. IS expands its presence in the eastern part of city.
2014: Government intensifies its barrel bomb campaign on rebels who united against IS
January: Rebels unite against IS, driving the extremists out of Aleppo. Government forces exploit the fighting to push the rebels back.
May: Using a new tactic, rebels tunnel beneath a hotel used as a government command and control center and blow it up. The government intensifies its barrel bomb campaign.
2015: Insurgents cause heavy damage to Assad, Russia joins the campaign bolstering Assad forces.
March: Insurgents blow up the Air Force Intelligence building in Aleppo after digging a tunnel, a symbolic victory. The newly formed Army of Conquest, which brings together rebels and al-Qaida-linked fighters, seizes Idlib city to the northwest.
October: Russia begins launching airstrikes to bolster Assad’s forces. Syrian troops launch an offensive around Aleppo. Iraqi, Lebanese and Iranian militias also throw their weight behind the government, setting the stage for a wider offensive against Aleppo that would continue until the following year.
2016: After a fierce battle between the rebels and Assad led coalition, Aleppo is liberated. Civilians are evacuated but the fighting leaves a deadly mark on the city and the residents.
February: Russia and the US broker a cease-fire that excludes extremists. Signs of normal life return to Aleppo.
April: The cease-fire collapses, bombing resumes, and the Castello road, the only road out of eastern Aleppo, becomes a death trap.
July: The government and allied forces impose a full siege on eastern Aleppo, with some 250,000 still in the enclave. Rebels break the siege for a few weeks, but government force seal the city off again by August.
September: A cease-fire negotiated by Russia and the United States holds for a few days, but talks to bring in aid go nowhere. An airstrike hits a humanitarian aid convoy north of the city.
October: Russia announces it is suspending its airstrikes on eastern Aleppo and designates humanitarian corridors, urging the rebels and residents to leave the eastern enclave. The rebels reject the offer, no one uses the corridors and the U.N. says it cannot carry out medical evacuations due to security concerns. The government continues its air raids.
November: The government launches a renewed, intensified air campaign. In late November, Syrian troops and allied forces launch a major ground offensive, rebel defenses crumble and thousands flee.
December 14: A cease-fire, brokered by Turkey and Russia, is announced for the evacuation of rebels and civilians from the tiny remaining sliver under opposition control, effectively surrendering the city to the government. But it fails to take hold, government shelling continues.
December 18: World powers reach a deal to allow the evacuations to resume, and over next days buses ferry out thousands of civilians and hundreds of fighters across government-held areas to rebel territory in Aleppo province. Rebels agreed to allow government forces to evacuate civilians and the sick from two Shia villages under siege in rebel-controlled Idlib province.
December 22: Under heavy snow and freezing conditions, the last people leave eastern Aleppo. The Syrian military announces that it has “re-established security” across the city.