Home » Opinion » Editorial » Aleppo war takes new turn with Russian envoy’s killing

Aleppo war takes new turn with Russian envoy’s killing

ALEPPO, Syria, was in the news again last Tuesday, not because of the violence surrounding the fighting in that ancient city, but because it appeared to be the reason a Turkish gunman assassinated the Russian ambassador in Ankara, Turkey.

“Don’t forget Aleppo!” off-duty Turkish policeman Mevlut Mert Altintas shouted as he shot Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov in the back at an Ankara art gallery. “Don’t forget about Syria, don’t forget about Aleppo. All those who participate in this tyranny will be held accountable!” he cried, before he was himself gunned down.

Aleppo has been in the news all week as Syrian government forces, backed by Russians, Iranians, and Shiite militias, besieged the rebel forces in the eastern part of the city. Ranged against them are the jihadist Islamic State, Kurds, and Sunni militants. The civil war has raged for five years now, sending millions of Syrian refugees streaming out of Syria towards Europe, many of them dying in boats that sank in the Mediterranean.

In the ongoing Syrian offensive against the rebel holdouts in Aleppo, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights warned that “crimes of historic proportions” were being committed. UN officials said Russia and the Syrian government would be held accountable for atrocities committed by government groups, including massacres of civilians.

There has been catastrophic destruction of ancient archeological sites in the Old City of Aleppo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it is the targeting of civilians and the bombing of hospitals and schools that moved the UN Security Council last week to vote to send observers to Aleppo and oversee the evacuation of civilians.

Russia has played a key role in all the fighting. After the killing of the Russian ambassador in Ankara, Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to find out “who directed the hand of the killer.” The assassination has added a new dimension to the violence in and around Aleppo that could signal a widening of the war in Syria and nearby areas in the Middle East.