An upsurge of intense fighting around Aleppo has killed dozens of Syrians in the past weeks, displaced thousands and cut water and power to up to two million people on both sides of the front line, worsening the already dire conditions faced by hundreds of thousands in the city.
In a war already marked by humanitarian crisis, the United Nations says the fighting threatens to replicate deprivation recently suffered by those in rebel-held eastern districts of Aleppo among civilians living in the government-held west.
Advances by warring sides in the last month, which resulted in a siege of rebel-held neighborhoods and the severing of a major route into government areas of control, have choked off supplies and raised fears of the encirclement of the entire civilian population.
Syria’s largest city pre-war has been divided into government and rebel areas of control for much of the conflict, and has been the focus of escalating violence since a ceasefire brokered by Washington and Moscow in February crumbled. Its capture would a major prize for President Bashar al-Assad.
Russia’s intervention last year helped turn the war in Assad’s favor. His forces with the help of Lebanese Hezbollah and Iranian fighters surrounded the eastern, opposition-held neighborhoods in Aleppo in July.
The latest major gains were made by rebels, however, who broke the month-long government siege in an attack last week on a Syrian military complex and also cut the main supply route to the western, government-held areas of the city.
“When the attack began … rockets and shells were fired toward Hamdaniya,” said Abu George, a resident who fled that neighborhood, close to the military complex in the southwest of the city.
“There were people who had already been displaced sheltering in nearby areas, they had to leave,” the 61-year-old agricultural engineer said via telephone.
Rebel bombardments of Hamdaniya on Wednesday killed more than a dozen people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said. Syrian and Russian warplanes have launched heavily raided the areas taken by insurgents.
The British-based group said bombardments by both sides have killed more than 120 people in the city since the beginning of August.
Abu George is among thousands who fled areas in southwest Aleppo in recent days, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
“Thousands of families have been displaced from southwestern Aleppo, including already displaced families who’ve had to move for a second time,” spokeswoman Ingy Sedky said.
Residents of western Aleppo said cutting the main supply route to the government side had slowed the entry of goods and fuel and driven up food prices, but a delivery by government forces via an alternative route this week provided some relief.