The last rebels and civilians fleeing eastern Aleppo rode out of the city on Thursday night, bringing to an end a weeklong evacuation effort.
The departure of the remaining rebels amounted to a surrender. Forces supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad moved in to take control of the destroyed city sector that was rebel-held for four years.
The government’s victory was secured after months of devastating airstrikes and assaults on the shrinking, besieged enclave. Negotiated cease-fires and attempts to provide humanitarian aid failed several times.
When the regime’s victory was clearly inevitable, efforts began to arrange the evacuation of eastern Aleppo — including civilians and the badly wounded. Despite the efforts of the international community, the process proceeded in fits and starts, amid freezing temperatures that compounded human misery.
Long-divided Aleppo is now held entirely by government forces. But the conflict between government forces and rebels isn’t over in what had been Syria’s biggest city.
Less than a day after rebel forces withdrew, insurgents outside the city have bombarded northern Aleppo, killing three people, The Associated Press reports.
And the war elsewhere in Syria rages on.
John Kirby, the spokesman for the U.S. State Department, said the international community is skeptical that the fall of Aleppo moves Syria’s war any closer to closure.
“Our view is … that what happened in Aleppo is not going to bring this war closer to an end,” he said. “It’s going to go on.”
“In Syria’s multifactional civil war, ISIS is still stubbornly holding territory, including the town of al-Bab in the north of the country,” NPR’s Alice Fordham reports. “It’s near Turkey’s border and Turkey is supporting Syrian factions with airstrikes. Turkey has been conducting operations against ISIS for four months but the extremists are still holding ground, and even retook the city of Palmyra earlier this month.”
Meanwhile, Reuters reports that for many residents and rebels who evacuated from east Aleppo to a rebel-held region to the southwest, their reprieve might be short-lived:
“Stars fill the night sky over the Syrian rebel-held city of Idlib, and the streets are eerily quiet. The calm might not last much longer.
“Now that Syrian government forces have recaptured Aleppo in a crushing offensive, they are likely to turn their attentions to Idlib. Thousands of refugees from Aleppo have been evacuated there, and U.N. Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura has warned the city could face the same fate as Aleppo.”