The Syrian army on Thursday said it had taken complete control of the city of Aleppo, ending four years of fighting between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and rebel groups. In a statement, the country’s military said it had brought “the return of safety and security” to the city, Reuters reported.
“The victory constitutes an important turning point,” the statement said. Syrian forces declared victory after the last group of rebel fighters were evacuated from the city as part of a ceasefire deal between the two sides. At least 34,000 people including civilians were evacuated from the eastern portion of the city during the week-long operation following the ceasefire agreement. However, there were repeated violations of the deal, stranding citizens at checkpoints throughout the city.
Assad said the victory was a shared one between Syria, Iran and Russia. Both Tehran and Moscow have backed Syria throughout the war, with Russian airstrikes on rebel positions forming a key part of the strategy to recapture Aleppo. The victory gives the Syrian government control of all four major cities in the country, according to CNN. An opposition activist said the capture of the city was a date “we’ll never forget and we will never forgive”.
“Let the world bear witness that Bashar Assad has killed and displaced and destroyed Aleppo, and he celebrates in his victory over the blood and offspring of Aleppo...with the agreement of Arab and Western nations,” said Ahmad al-Khatib, AP reported. At least 400,000 people have been killed and 1.8 million people have fled Syria during the six-year-long civil war between the two sides. While Iran and Russia have backed forces loyal to Assad, the United States has provided support to the rebel groups.