The past four years have been hell for Aleppo native Mohib Abdelsalam, as Syria’s civil war left thousands dead and reduced entire neighborhoods to rubble in opposition-held areas of his home town.
But this summer, the 26-year-old rebel said, life got even worse. A burst of intensified fighting has rocked the flash-point northern city, long divided between rebel districts in the east and government-controlled areas in the west. The 300,000 residents of the eastern enclaves suddenly faced a punishing siege and worsening shortages of food, water and drugs amid a surge in attacks by government and Russian fighter jets.
For Abdelsalam, an emergency responder who lost four family members to a bombing in June, the horrors have become almost unbearable.
“You don’t understand,” he said, speaking via Skype. “Now it’s like any kind of day-to-day life is impossible.”
The ongoing fighting appears to be building into an important battle in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city before conflict erupted five years ago, killing 400,000 people across the country and displacing millions.
Winning control of the entire city is a goal that has eluded both sides since rebel forces stormed it in 2012, and the fierceness of this summer’s battles underscores how much both still see it as a potential game-changer in the war. For residents, though, the stakes are more immediate — and measured in daily suffering.
Rebel fighters this month managed to partially lift the government blockade of their strongholds in the city. Now those fighters — some of them linked to al-Qaeda — are expanding their offensive to shell and besiege government-run neighborhoods, which are also experiencing water and food shortages.
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