Over the weekend, Bashar al-Assad’s regime and its Russian allies launched a ferocious assault on rebel-held territory in the eastern part of Aleppo City. The bombing campaign was stunning even for a place that has long been a central front in Syria’s civil war.
“There are dead people in the streets, and fires are burning without control,” Ammar al-Selmo, the head of the local White Helmets civil defense organization, told the Washington Post’s Liz Sly. “People don’t know what to do or where to go. There is no escape. It is like the end of the world.”
To give you a sense of the breathtaking scale of the violence, I’ve compared US government data on the number of airstrikes in Aleppo with data on the past 72 hours of airstrikes launched by the US-led anti-ISIS campaign. What I found was striking: Russian and Syrian warplanes launched more than twice as many airstrikes on Aleppo alone as the US and its allies launched across the entirety of Syria and Iraq:
This data tells us a very clear story. While the United States and its allies are waging a targeted air campaign against ISIS and other extremists, Russia and the Syrian government are launching an all-out assault on a single city, an assault heedless of the civilian casualties. Washington and its allies have killed innocents but work to avoid it. Russia and Syria — which are carpet-bombing densely populated civilian areas with indiscriminate weapons like barrel bombs — don't.
This includes, as my colleague Jennifer Williams explains, a documented pattern of attacks against aid workers and medical professionals. In Aleppo, most hospitals and medical aid centers in rebel areas have been destroyed, while a huge proportion of the city’s doctors — including the last pediatrician — have been killed.
This number also tells us something else: The recently inked ceasefire in Syria, signed by the US and Russia, is dead letter. While it’s conceivable that the two countries may build on this effort in the future, and move toward some kind of more lasting agreement, that’s cold comfort for the Aleppo residents who are currently living through what Selmo calls “the end of the world.”