Patrick Cockburn

Across Syria towns and districts are under siege. In the north, the Syrian army and its Shia allies from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, assisted by Russian air power, have surrounded the opposition enclave of East Aleppo, where a quarter of a million civilians are under attack. If East Aleppo falls, one of the last big urban centres held by the opposition will have been eliminated. In Damascus, government forces are bringing to an end a series of long sieges, most of which began in 2012, and look close to taking full control of the capital. The administrative heart of the state, home to one third of the population, Damascus is the key to political power in Syria, and once Assad holds all of it, he will have little reason to step down or share power with his enemies.

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