Photos show Aleppo before and after the battle raged on its streets – and as it tries to rebuild

The battle for Aleppo raged for over five years, coming to an end in December 2016 and marking a major milestone in a bloody civil war that has transformed Syria from a bustling country to a devastating warzone.

The war, which was born out of the 2011 Arab Spring protests, left 6.1 million internally displaced and left 5.6 million people as refugees out of Syria as of April, according to the Center for Strategic & International Studies.

Death tolls from the conflict are hard to calculate, but in 2016 the Syrian Center for Policy Research estimated that 470,000 people had been killed.

The city was left a shell of its former self after the bloody war between rebels and government forces. While the Syrian civil war continues, looking at photos of the city of Aleppo before and after the battle took place on its streets serves as a sobering reminder of the catastrophic consequences of the conflict.

This is Aleppo in December 2016, when the battle in the city was declared over. For the previous five years, the Syrian city was the target for conflict and intense shelling from Russian-backed government forces and rebels fighting against President Assad’s regime. Airstrikes left ancient mosques and homes under blankets of dust and rubble.

Hundreds of thousands of people were trapped in the besieged city. Hospitals and schools were destroyed.

But life in Aleppo wasn’t always this way. The city had spent centuries evolving into the country’s largest industrial and commercial hub and is one of the oldest inhabited cities in human history. It was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1986.

EUTERS/ Khaled al-HaririAleppo grand castle is seen from the roof of an old house inside old Aleppo city in Syria March 7, 2006.

In 2006, when this photo was taken, more than 2.3 million people lived in the city which was home to bustling markets, open green spaces, and huge shopping malls.

The city was a vibrant mix of historic landmarks and ancient markets in a rapidly evolving metropolis.

Western companies had opened shop in the country. The Shahba Mall in the centre of the city was one of the most popular and largest shopping spots in Syria. It housed fashion stores, restaurants, a hotel, a cinema, and so much more.

The building was the hallmark of the modernisation pushed for by President Bashar al-Assad. Assad spent years living and studying in Britain and wanted to emulate its economic success.

The war left the mall abandoned and covered in a thick sheet of dust and rubble. The building was used as a prison by ISIS before rebel forces occupied the region.

Source: The Guardian

When Bashar al-Assad was elected the president of Syria, he was touted as a symbol of hope for the country, but internal political conflicts and widespread corruption brought the country to its knees.

Under his rule, the country, especially Aleppo, became more cosmopolitan than most other countries in the Middle East.

The Umayyad mosque was one of Aleppo’s most famous mosques and also one of its most beautiful. UNESCO described it as “one of the most beautiful mosques in the Muslim world.”

The war left parts of the 11th-century mosque as nothing more than a pile of rubble. State news agencies blamed rebels for its collapse, but rebel forces blamed government artillery fire.

In a sign of progress for the city, the mosque is to be restored — but the amount of work needed is enormous. The photo was taken in January 2017, just after the battle. Repairs have restarted since, but there aren’t photographs of the work.

This photo shows tourists exploring the city’s ancient ruins and historic citadel in 2009, but tourism has since plummeted.

The oldest hotel in Syria, the Baron Hotel, was forced to close its doors in 2014. The frontline separating government and rebel forces had been drawn just metres from the building.

The hotel had accommodated some of history’s most famous names — from American billionaire David Rockefeller to Lawrence of Arabia. Agatha Christie also wrote part of ‘Murder on The Orient Express’ in room 203.

As the war raged, the hotel was hit by mortar fire. The owner’s widow, Roubina Tashjian, spoke to Reuters in 2017 about how the war had changed the country. “Syria was the most comfortable, the most secular country in the Arab world,” said Tashjian. “It was embarrassing if people asked if you were a Christian or a Muslim.”

The last days of the battle were described by one resident as a “doomsday,” with residents being forced to shelter from some of the most intense bombardment of the conflict. In this photo, debris is removed after an air strike in a rebel-controlled neighbourhood in October 2016.

Now that the Battle for Aleppo is over, construction has started again in the city. This photograph, from February 2018, shows a construction site amid the ruins.

The war continues across Syria, and more than six million people displaced within the country and millions more Syrians left as refugees abroad. But life continues in the country. In this picture from 2017, people attend a classical concert in the war-torn Maronite cathedral at the Old City of Aleppo.

In this picture, a street vendor sells tomatoes in al-Kalasa district of Aleppo in July 2017.

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