Devastating photos offer a glimpse inside Syria’s fiercest battleground — one of the 3 oldest cities in human history

The epicenter of Syria’s brutal civil war shifted decisively last week to the country’s largest city, Aleppo, which remains divided between regime loyalists in the west and rebel forces in the east.

Since April 22, 250 people have been killed – 140 of them in airstrikes and 96 by rebel shelling, according to The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. At least 40 children have been among the dead.

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Children play near barricades in a street, which serve as protection from snipers loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, in Aleppo’s rebel-controlled Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood, Syria April 6, 2016
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Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters

The violence has continued into the weekend: roughly 30 airstrikes pounded Aleppo on Saturday, marking the ninth-consecutive day of deadly bombardments.


Aleppo — along with Syria’s capital, Damascus, and Sana’a, in Yemen — is one of the three oldest inhabited cities in human history.

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General view of Aleppo in Syria during sunrise March 7, 2006.
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Reuters

The Citadel of Aleppo, a medieval fortified palace in the center of the old city, is one of the oldest and largest castles in the world. Its usage dates back at least to the middle of the third millennium BC.


In 2004, Aleppo was chosen by the Islamic conference organization to become the capital of Arab-Islamic culture.

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A woman walks inside one of Aleppo’s old city streets in Syria, on March 7, 2006.
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Reuters

Source: Reuters


A UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Aleppo was a bustling commercial center with a population of just more than 2 million people before it joined in the uprising against Assad’s rule in 2011.


Now, much of the city lies in ruins. Only about 40,000 of its original inhabitants remain.


A large section of the citadel was destroyed in 2015. The government and the rebels both blame each other for blowing up the ancient wall.

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A view shows a destroyed section of the wall of Aleppo’s ancient citadel as seen from a rebel-held area in Aleppo, Syria July 12, 2015.
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Reuters

As of early March, about 40% of rebel-held eastern Aleppo had been damaged by airstrikes or shelling.

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People inspect the damage at a site hit by airstrikes, in the rebel-held area of Aleppo’s Bustan al-Qasr, Syria April 28, 2016.
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Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters

The latest wave of violence has resulted in a “catastrophic deterioration” of the city over the past few days, according to the United Nations.

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An injured woman reacts at a site hit by airstrikes in the rebel held area of Old Aleppo, Syria, April 28, 2016.
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Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters

Source: UN humanitarian task force for Syria


The government attacked a Doctors Without Borders hospital on Thursday. The hospital is one of many medical facilities that have been targeted by regime warplanes over the course of the war.

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People inspect the damage at the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)-backed al-Quds hospital after it was hit by airstrikes, in a rebel-held area of Syria’s Aleppo, April 28, 2016.
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Reuters

“Doctors have been killed, health workers have been killed, and medical workers have been blocked from coming to their patients,” Jan Egeland, the chairman of the UN humanitarian task force for Syria, said on Thursday.

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People inspect the damage at a site hit by airstrikes, in the rebel-held area of Aleppo’s Bustan al-Qasr, Syria April 28, 2016.
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Reuters

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A man removes medicine inside the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)-backed al-Quds hospital after it was hit by airstrikes, in a rebel-held area of Syria’s Aleppo, April 28, 2016.
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Reuters

“We have seen with own eyes very many children, very many other civilians,” Egeland continued.

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A civil defence member carries a child that survived from under the rubble at a site hit by airstrikes in the rebel held area of Old Aleppo, Syria, April 28, 2016.
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Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters

The scenes coming out of Aleppo have prompted the creation of the hashtag #AleppoIsBurning, or حلب_تحترق #, on Twitter.

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The Syrian Network for Human Rights, an independent non-profit organization that documents rights violations, posts an update on its Twitter feed.
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Twitter

The hashtag has transformed into a movement, with protesters around the world taking to the streets to demand an end to the devastation.

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Arabic writings on the wall reading “Aleppo is burning,” in a rebel held area of Aleppo, Syria, April 29, 2016.
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Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters

Source: Aleppo Is Burning


The violence forced the city to cancel its Friday prayers “for the first time in Aleppo’s centuries-long history.”

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A man reacts as he stands on blood stains at a site hit by airstrikes in the rebel held area of Aleppo’s al-Fardous district, Syria, April 29, 2016.
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Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters

Source: Lina Sergie


“For the longest time, while watching my city being destroyed, I consoled myself and convinced others that everything happening in Aleppo has happened before in history,” Lina Sergie, an activist from Aleppo, wrote on Friday.

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Civil defence members rest amid rubble of damaged buildings after an airstrike on the rebel-held Tariq al-Bab neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria April 23, 2016.
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Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters

Source: Lina Sergie


But, she said, “Imagining Aleppo’s minarets silenced on a Friday makes me think that perhaps we have crossed a line that has never been crossed before.”

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Children look out from a balcony at a site hit by airstrikes, in the rebel-held area of Aleppo’s Bustan al-Qasr.
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Thomson Reuters

Source: Lina Sergie


“Perhaps we are really are worse than any other people that came before us,” Lina said. “Perhaps neither we or she will survive.”

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A civilian evacuates a baby from a site hit by airstrikes in the rebel held area of Aleppo’s al-Fardous district, Syria, April 29, 2016.
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Reuters