Around 3,000 civilians were evacuated from Aleppo on Thursday as forces loyal to the government claimed to have retaken control of the Syrian city. This is a major victory for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as it solidifies his regime’s control over the largest city in the country, and a major setback for the myriad rebel groups who’ve been resisting his violent despotism for the last five years. There are more evacuations planned as well, which begs the question: How many people are left in Aleppo?
On Nov. 21, before the recent wave of evacuations, CNN reported that around 1 million people were still in the city. But on Tuesday, a Syrian journalist estimated that only 50,000 to 60,000 people remain in Aleppo. However, one day before that, a U.N. source told Middle East Eye that there were plans to evacuate 100,000 people from eastern Aleppo alone, implying that there were at least that many people in the city as of Monday.
It's simply impossible to get an accurate idea of how many people are still in Aleppo. The city has been engulfed in war for several years and is still being bombarded with gunfire, airstrikes, and barrel bombs on the daily, which makes a census of the region’s population wholly unfeasible.
What is clear, however, is that a shocking number of Syrians who once lived in Aleppo have been driven from their homes. The city once had a population of over 2 million, but due to the Syrian regime’s five-year assault on the city, many, if not most of them, have been displaced. This isn’t strictly a recent phenomenon: About 200,000 Aleppo residents fled the city during one 48-hour period in 2012, a United Nations official told CNN.
It has been five years since Assad’s forces open-fired on protesters in Daraa, killing four and setting off a chain of events that would lead the country into a five-year-long civil war. Somewhere around 470,000 Syrians have been killed as a result of the war, although a specific death toll is extremely hard to calculate and many different numbers have been given by different sources. Another 4.8 million Syrians have been made refugees and 6.6 million internally displaced within the country, according to the U.N.
There have been many Western attempts over the years to resolve the conflict through the U.N., but Russia has repeatedly used its seat on the body’s Security Council to prevent any action from being taken against Assad, which it considers an ally. Most recently, Russia vetoed a resolution to halt all aerial bombings of Aleppo by Syrian and Russian regime planes.
Presumably, with Donald Trump set to become the next U.S. president, Russia will have more of an ally in dealing with Syria than it has for the last five years. This may be good news for U.S.-Russian relations, but it's most definitely not good news for Syrians who oppose Assad and his regime.