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─ AP/File

In pictures: Syria in the grip of conflict

The siege of eastern Aleppo draws to an end.
Updated Feb 20, 2018 03:43pm

As the four-month siege of Syria's eastern Aleppo neared its end, some survivors trudged in the rain past dead bodies to the government-held west or the few districts still in rebel hands. Others stayed in their homes and awaited the Syrian army's arrival. For all of them, fear of arrest, conscription or summary execution had added to the daily terror of bombardment.

Restoring full control over Aleppo, Syria's most populous city before the war, has been seen as critical to the fortunes of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a multi-sided war now in its sixth year.

The fall of Aleppo would deal rebels their worst blow since the beginning of Syria's conflict in 2011, and leave the government in control of the country's five major cities.

The Syrian Observatory has said that around 130,000 people have fled rebel areas, moving mostly to government-held territory. The ruinous war in Syria has killed over 300,000 people and displaced half the population.

The government assault on Aleppo has killed at least 413 civilians since mid-November, according to the Observatory. Another 139 civilians have been killed in rebel fire on the west of the city in the same period, it said.

Diplomatic efforts to bring an end to the conflict have repeatedly failed but Russia last week said talks were underway with US officials on securing a ceasefire in Aleppo and the withdrawal of all rebel forces from the city.

Insurgents who had held the eastern part of the city since the early days of the war effectively agreed to surrender what remained of their besieged enclave and evacuate after a fierce government assault. The Russian Defence Ministry was cited as saying on Thursday that the evacuation of 5,000 rebels and their families from Aleppo has begun on Thursday.

Syrians emerge from a dust cloud following a reported airstrike on Kafr Batna, in the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area, on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, on September 30, 2016. ─ AFP
Syrians emerge from a dust cloud following a reported airstrike on Kafr Batna, in the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area, on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, on September 30, 2016. ─ AFP

Free Syrian Army fighters run away after attacking a Syrian Army tank during fighting in the Izaa district in Aleppo, Syria, Friday, Sept. 7, 2012. ─ AP/File
Free Syrian Army fighters run away after attacking a Syrian Army tank during fighting in the Izaa district in Aleppo, Syria, Friday, Sept. 7, 2012. ─ AP/File

Free Syrian Army fighters launch a Grad rocket from Halfaya town in Hama province towards forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad stationed in Zein al-Abidin mountain on September 4, 2016. ─ Reuters
Free Syrian Army fighters launch a Grad rocket from Halfaya town in Hama province towards forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad stationed in Zein al-Abidin mountain on September 4, 2016. ─ Reuters

Free Syrian Army soldiers throws a petrol bomb against Syrian Army positions in Saif Al Dawle district in Aleppo, Syria, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012. ─ AP/File
Free Syrian Army soldiers throws a petrol bomb against Syrian Army positions in Saif Al Dawle district in Aleppo, Syria, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012. ─ AP/File

Syrian children run for cover following a reported airstrike on Kafr Batna, in the rebel-held eastern Ghouta area, on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, on September 30, 2016. ─ AFP
Syrian children run for cover following a reported airstrike on Kafr Batna, in the rebel-held eastern Ghouta area, on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, on September 30, 2016. ─ AFP

Smoke rises following a Syrian government air strike on rebel positions, in eastern Aleppo, Syria, Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. ─ AP/File
Smoke rises following a Syrian government air strike on rebel positions, in eastern Aleppo, Syria, Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. ─ AP/File

A Syrian man carrying a child emerges from a dust cloud following a reported airstrike on Kafr Batna on September 30, 2016. ─ AFP
A Syrian man carrying a child emerges from a dust cloud following a reported airstrike on Kafr Batna on September 30, 2016. ─ AFP

A Syrian woman walks past a body in front of Dar El Shifa Hospital, Aleppo, Syria, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. ─ AP/File
A Syrian woman walks past a body in front of Dar El Shifa Hospital, Aleppo, Syria, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. ─ AP/File

The body of a Syrian Army soldier lies on the ground after heavy clashes with government forces at a military academy besieged by the rebels in Tal Sheer, Syria, Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012. ─ AP/File
The body of a Syrian Army soldier lies on the ground after heavy clashes with government forces at a military academy besieged by the rebels in Tal Sheer, Syria, Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012. ─ AP/File

People inspect the damage at a site hit by airstrikes in Idlib, Syria September 29, 2016. ─ Reuters
People inspect the damage at a site hit by airstrikes in Idlib, Syria September 29, 2016. ─ Reuters

In this photo, provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center (AMC), which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, a Syrian man, right, runs for cover from a Syrian government forces airstrike attack, in Aleppo, Syria, Feb. 27, 2014. ─ AP/File
In this photo, provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center (AMC), which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, a Syrian man, right, runs for cover from a Syrian government forces airstrike attack, in Aleppo, Syria, Feb. 27, 2014. ─ AP/File

A photo taken on September 25, 2016 shows the flag of the militant Islamic State (IS) group painted on the wall outside the ancient Manbij hotel in the Syrian town of Manbij, that was used as a prison when it was under the control of IS. ─ AFP
A photo taken on September 25, 2016 shows the flag of the militant Islamic State (IS) group painted on the wall outside the ancient Manbij hotel in the Syrian town of Manbij, that was used as a prison when it was under the control of IS. ─ AFP

A general view shows a poster of Assad in Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood after Syrian pro-government forces captured the area in the eastern part of the war torn city on December 13, 2016. ─ AFP
A general view shows a poster of Assad in Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood after Syrian pro-government forces captured the area in the eastern part of the war torn city on December 13, 2016. ─ AFP

A Syrian army soldier places a Syrian national flag during a battle with rebel fighters at the Ramouseh front line, east of Aleppo, Syria, Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. ─ AP/File
A Syrian army soldier places a Syrian national flag during a battle with rebel fighters at the Ramouseh front line, east of Aleppo, Syria, Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. ─ AP/File

Syrian regime forces gather at the Kindi Hospital as smoke billows following aistrikes on Aleppo on October 2, 2016. ─ AFP
Syrian regime forces gather at the Kindi Hospital as smoke billows following aistrikes on Aleppo on October 2, 2016. ─ AFP

An empty room at the damaged field hospital is seen after airstrikes in a rebel held area in Aleppo, Syria on October 1, 2016. ─ Reuters
An empty room at the damaged field hospital is seen after airstrikes in a rebel held area in Aleppo, Syria on October 1, 2016. ─ Reuters

A damaged field hospital room is seen after airstrikes in a rebel held area in Aleppo, Syria October 1. ─ Reuters
A damaged field hospital room is seen after airstrikes in a rebel held area in Aleppo, Syria October 1. ─ Reuters

Syrian volunteers carry an injured person on a stretcher following Syrian government forces airstrikes on the rebel held neighbourhood of Heluk in Aleppo, on September 30, 2016. ─ AFP
Syrian volunteers carry an injured person on a stretcher following Syrian government forces airstrikes on the rebel held neighbourhood of Heluk in Aleppo, on September 30, 2016. ─ AFP

Syrian men carry injured people amid the rubble of destroyed buildings following a reported air strike on the rebel-held northwestern city of Idlib on September 29, 2016. ─ AFP
Syrian men carry injured people amid the rubble of destroyed buildings following a reported air strike on the rebel-held northwestern city of Idlib on September 29, 2016. ─ AFP

Syrian pro-government soldiers patrol the area of Awijah as they advance in Aleppo's rebel-held neighbourhoods, on October 8, 2016. ─ AFP
Syrian pro-government soldiers patrol the area of Awijah as they advance in Aleppo's rebel-held neighbourhoods, on October 8, 2016. ─ AFP

The remains of a shell are pictured outside Aleppo's historic citadel, during a media tour, Syria December 13, 2016. ─ Reuters
The remains of a shell are pictured outside Aleppo's historic citadel, during a media tour, Syria December 13, 2016. ─ Reuters

Syrian residents stand in a graveyard in Aleppo's Al-Kalasseh neighbourhood that was newly captured by pro-governments forces in the eastern part of the war torn city on December 13, 2016. ─ AFP
Syrian residents stand in a graveyard in Aleppo's Al-Kalasseh neighbourhood that was newly captured by pro-governments forces in the eastern part of the war torn city on December 13, 2016. ─ AFP

A general view shows a severely damaged street in Aleppo's Al-Kalasseh neighbourhood in the eastern part of the war torn city on December 13, 2016. ─ AFP
A general view shows a severely damaged street in Aleppo's Al-Kalasseh neighbourhood in the eastern part of the war torn city on December 13, 2016. ─ AFP

Syrian pro-government forces walk in Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood after they captured the area in the eastern part of the war torn city on December 13, 2016. ─ AFP
Syrian pro-government forces walk in Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood after they captured the area in the eastern part of the war torn city on December 13, 2016. ─ AFP

A general view shows a severely damaged building in a street in Aleppo's Al-Kalasseh neighbourhood in the eastern part of the war torn city on December 13, 2016. ─ AFP
A general view shows a severely damaged building in a street in Aleppo's Al-Kalasseh neighbourhood in the eastern part of the war torn city on December 13, 2016. ─ AFP

A Syrian man reacts over the body of his brother who was killed in a reported air strike in the rebel-held town of Douma, on the eastern outskirts of the capital Damascus, on October 2, 2016. ─ AFP
A Syrian man reacts over the body of his brother who was killed in a reported air strike in the rebel-held town of Douma, on the eastern outskirts of the capital Damascus, on October 2, 2016. ─ AFP

Syrians shout slogans during a rally in the rebel-held northwestern city of Idlib, late on December 12, 2016, in support of residents of the rebel-controlled part of Aleppo which is under regime siege. ─ AFP
Syrians shout slogans during a rally in the rebel-held northwestern city of Idlib, late on December 12, 2016, in support of residents of the rebel-controlled part of Aleppo which is under regime siege. ─ AFP

A vehicle drives past a mosque at night in Idlib, Syria October 30, 2016. ─ Reuters
A vehicle drives past a mosque at night in Idlib, Syria October 30, 2016. ─ Reuters

Govermental Syrian forces fire into sky as celebrating their victory against rebels in eastern Aleppo, Syria December 12,2016. ─ Reuters
Govermental Syrian forces fire into sky as celebrating their victory against rebels in eastern Aleppo, Syria December 12,2016. ─ Reuters

Syrians celebrate with national flags on December 12, 2016 in an Aleppo's regime-held district near the al-Shuhaba roundabout, after rebel fighters retreated into a small pocket of their former bastion in the face of new army advances. ─ AFP
Syrians celebrate with national flags on December 12, 2016 in an Aleppo's regime-held district near the al-Shuhaba roundabout, after rebel fighters retreated into a small pocket of their former bastion in the face of new army advances. ─ AFP

Supporters of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad carry their national flags and gesture as they tour the streets in celebration of what they say is the Syrian army's victory against the rebels in Aleppo, Syria December 12, 2016. ─ Reuters
Supporters of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad carry their national flags and gesture as they tour the streets in celebration of what they say is the Syrian army's victory against the rebels in Aleppo, Syria December 12, 2016. ─ Reuters

A boy arranges plant seeds in the beseiged rebel held area of Aleppo, Syria October 8, 2016.
A boy arranges plant seeds in the beseiged rebel held area of Aleppo, Syria October 8, 2016.

A man makes bread in the beseiged rebel held area of Aleppo, Syria October 8, 2016. ─ Reuters
A man makes bread in the beseiged rebel held area of Aleppo, Syria October 8, 2016. ─ Reuters

Men drink a traditional liquorice drink in the besieged rebel held area of Aleppo, Syria October 8, 2016. ─ Reuters
Men drink a traditional liquorice drink in the besieged rebel held area of Aleppo, Syria October 8, 2016. ─ Reuters

Syrian pro-government forces walk in the ancient Umayyad mosque in the old city of Aleppo after they captured the area in the eastern part of the war torn city on December 13, 2016. ─ AFP
Syrian pro-government forces walk in the ancient Umayyad mosque in the old city of Aleppo after they captured the area in the eastern part of the war torn city on December 13, 2016. ─ AFP

Syrian pro-government forces pray at the Umayyad mosque in the old city of Aleppo. ─AFP
Syrian pro-government forces pray at the Umayyad mosque in the old city of Aleppo. ─AFP

A general view taken from the government-held side shows Aleppo's historic citadel on December 3, 2016. ─ AFP
A general view taken from the government-held side shows Aleppo's historic citadel on December 3, 2016. ─ AFP

This file photo taken on Dec 9, 2016 shows a Syrian pro-government fighter walking past closed shops in the Bab al-Nasr district of Aleppo's Old City. ─ AFP
This file photo taken on Dec 9, 2016 shows a Syrian pro-government fighter walking past closed shops in the Bab al-Nasr district of Aleppo's Old City. ─ AFP

Syrian pro-government forces walk in Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood after they captured the area in the eastern part of the war torn city on December 13, 2016. ─ AFP
Syrian pro-government forces walk in Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood after they captured the area in the eastern part of the war torn city on December 13, 2016. ─ AFP

Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad stand atop a damaged tank near Umayyad mosque, in the government-controlled area of Aleppo, during a media tour, Syria December 13, 2016. ─ Reuters
Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad stand atop a damaged tank near Umayyad mosque, in the government-controlled area of Aleppo, during a media tour, Syria December 13, 2016. ─ Reuters

A member of the Syrian pro-government forces stands next to a tank in the old city of Aleppo on December 13, 2016, after they recaptured the area. ─ AFP
A member of the Syrian pro-government forces stands next to a tank in the old city of Aleppo on December 13, 2016, after they recaptured the area. ─ AFP

Buses wait to evacuate people from a rebel pocket in Aleppo, in the government-controlled al-Hamadaniah Stadium of Aleppo, Syria December 14, 2016. ─ Reuters
Buses wait to evacuate people from a rebel pocket in Aleppo, in the government-controlled al-Hamadaniah Stadium of Aleppo, Syria December 14, 2016. ─ Reuters

Syrian residents, fleeing violence in the restive Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood. ─AFP
Syrian residents, fleeing violence in the restive Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood. ─AFP

A man carries a child with an IV drip as he flees deeper into the remaining rebel-held areas of Aleppo. ─Reuters
A man carries a child with an IV drip as he flees deeper into the remaining rebel-held areas of Aleppo. ─Reuters

Syrians leave a rebel-held area of Aleppo towards the government-held side. ─AFP
Syrians leave a rebel-held area of Aleppo towards the government-held side. ─AFP

Children walk together as they flee deeper into the remaining rebel-held areas of Aleppo. ─Reuters
Children walk together as they flee deeper into the remaining rebel-held areas of Aleppo. ─Reuters

Syrian civilians flee the Sukkari neighbourhood towards safer rebel-held areas in southeastern Aleppo, on December 12, 2016, during an operation by Syrian government forces to retake the embattled city. ─ AFP
Syrian civilians flee the Sukkari neighbourhood towards safer rebel-held areas in southeastern Aleppo, on December 12, 2016, during an operation by Syrian government forces to retake the embattled city. ─ AFP

Syrian pro-government forces patrol Aleppo's eastern al-Salihin neighbourhood on December 12, 2016 after troops retook the area from rebel fighters. ─ AFP
Syrian pro-government forces patrol Aleppo's eastern al-Salihin neighbourhood on December 12, 2016 after troops retook the area from rebel fighters. ─ AFP

Syrian pro-regime fighters, gesture as they drive past resident fleeing violence in the restive Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood, in Aleppo's Fardos neighbourhood on December 13, 2016, after regime troops retook the area from rebel fighters. ─ AFP
Syrian pro-regime fighters, gesture as they drive past resident fleeing violence in the restive Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood, in Aleppo's Fardos neighbourhood on December 13, 2016, after regime troops retook the area from rebel fighters. ─ AFP

A Syrian woman, fleeing violence in the restive Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood, reacts as she stands with her children in Aleppo's Fardos neighbourhood. ─AFP
A Syrian woman, fleeing violence in the restive Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood, reacts as she stands with her children in Aleppo's Fardos neighbourhood. ─AFP

Syrian residents, fleeing violence in the restive Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood. ─AFP
Syrian residents, fleeing violence in the restive Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood. ─AFP

A Syrian pro-regime fighter speaks with a child, as residents flee violence in the restive Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood. ─AFP
A Syrian pro-regime fighter speaks with a child, as residents flee violence in the restive Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood. ─AFP

Syrian residents, fleeing violence in the restive Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood. ─AFP
Syrian residents, fleeing violence in the restive Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood. ─AFP