Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and high-ranking Russian officials are declaring “victory” tonight in the multi-year battle for the northern city of Aleppo, as the first day of evacuations saw thousands of people, including both rebels and civilians, given passage out of what was the last rebel bastion.
The evacuations had initially been scheduled for Wednesday morning, but were pushed back until Thursday by clashes. The Red Cross reported around 3,000 civilians have been evacuated. There is no word on how many rebels there were, or how many rebels indeed were left in the city after so much fighting.
Aleppo has been contested by myriad factions since 2012, with heavy fighting doing massive amounts of destruction to the city over the years, leaving what was once a bustling financial and industrial hub as little more than a collection of half-destroyed neighborhoods surrounded by barricades.
Over the last year, the fighting boiled down to the Syrian military in the west, and a collection of rebels, dominated by al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front, in the east. Though both sides had major attacks and counter-attacks over time, ultimately the rebels started losing group precipitously, leaving them with little choice but to accept an evacuation offer.