Remember Aleppo? Close to two months have now passed since the eastern part of Syria’s largest pre-war city was retaken by the government. Peace has returned to the ancient city, the jihadis and their sympathisers have been evacuated to rebel-held parts of the country, and negotiations between the government and the armed opposition under the auspices of Russia, Iran and Turkey are ongoing. The mainstream media, however, is suddenly relatively silent. Perhaps they don’t want you to know what life under rebel occupation must have been like. In this article, I offer a comprehensive analysis of the mass media’s war-time coverage of Aleppo, with emphasis on what they described as its “fall” in December 2016.
Unreliable sources and undocumented allegations
When Cartman and Stan broke the world’s largest beaver dam in the ninth season of South Park, it caused the town of Beaverton to flood. Standing 10 miles outside of the destroyed city, unable to get in, reporter Mitch explained the situation inside the city to news anchor Tom:
Mitch: “We have not any reports of fatalities yet, but we believe that the death toll may be in the hundreds of millions; Beaverton only has a population of 8.000, Tom, so this would be quite devastating.”
Tom: “Any word on how the survivors in the town are doing, Mitch?”
Mitch: “We’re not sure what exactly is going on inside the town of Beaverton, Tom, but we’re reporting that there is looting, raping, and yes, even acts of cannibalism.”
Tom: “My god, you’ve actually seen people looting, raping and eating each other?”
Mitch: “No. No, we haven’t actually seen it, Tom, we’re just reporting it.”
At first glance, it might seem odd and even perverse to link this South Park scene to the mass media’s coverage of the real-life war-torn city of Aleppo. The similarities, however, are striking. Just like in the above-mentioned clip, the mainstream media has almost no reporters on the ground in Aleppo, let alone in Syria, as its correspondents almost exclusively report from Lebanon or Turkey. The Western press therefore has to rely on their usual compromised sources, such as the White Helmets, an obscure Western-funded NGO infamous for being armed and partial contrary to their own claims, spokespeople from Nour al-Din al-Zinki – infamous for decapitating a 12-year-old Palestinian boy with a small knife – and other Western-backed “moderate rebel” groups, and a handful of other “journalists,” “activists” and “doctors” embedded with the insurgents (the primary sources of many documented fabrications) who sent out their “final videos” when the Syrian army was closing in on east Aleppo, implying that they were awaiting an imminent genocide. The Daily Beast went as far as including allegations circulating in rebel chat forums in its reporting.
Claims coming from these “reliable” sources that the Western press eagerly reported on without much scrutiny include the estimation of 100.000 trapped civilians in only “a few streets, a few blocks, maybe a neighbourhood,” bombs falling at a ratio of 10 per minute, more than 100 unattended children being trapped in a building amid attacks by the Syrian army, the Syrian army and pro-government militias executing more than 180 people after taking over rebel-held neighbourhoods, the streets lying “full of dead bodies,” government forces capturing the remaining food supplies, women and children being “cooked alive by barrel bombs,” and “the conquerors of Aleppo” raping in the course of their “Assadist blitzkrieg,” prompting numerous women to kill themselves in order to escape rape. None of these claims were accompanied by evidence.
The UN OHCHR High Commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, too, alleged from “reports” that pro-government forces might have killed 82 civilians. Again, it was the Western press that distorted Zeid’s words and presented the undocumented allegation as a fact, however. The BBC claimed that “Syrian pro-government forces in eastern Aleppo have been killing people, including women and children, on the spot in their homes and on the street, the United Nations says,” while the UN never said such a thing. The only thing that Zeid (who, it should be noted, is a prince of the Jordanian monarchy, which is heavily involved in the war against Syria) said, was that he had “reports.” Furthermore, when Rupert Colville, the Commissioner’s spokesperson, was asked which forces would be involved in these executions, it became pretty clear how substantiated this claim is:
“I can’t say who has done all of them, but we understand that at least one Iraqi militia was involved. We’ve heard of killings of civilians in this way in four different locations, so it may well be different forces involved.” (emphasis added)
Compare this to the OHCHR-linked Commission of Inquiry on Syria, which also received “allegations” the next day of opposition groups, including Ahrar al-Sham, “preventing civilians from leaving as well as opposition fighters embedding themselves within the civilian population, thus heightening the risk to civilians of being killed or injured.” While the Commissioner’s statement found its way to headlines across the world, these warnings have been swept under the rug by the mainstream media. The latter, however, follows an existing pattern, while to date, no evidence or even a source of the former claim has been put forward.
Reminding us of the Iraqi and Libyan opposition’s numerous undocumented and later disproven allegations that the Western press uncritically reported on in concert at the time, the Independent’s Patrick Cockburn stated:
“Experience shows that foreign reporters are quite right not to trust their lives even to the most moderate of the armed opposition inside Syria. But, strangely enough, the same media organisations continue to put their trust in the veracity of information coming out of areas under the control of these same potential kidnappers and hostage takers. They would probably defend themselves by saying they rely on non-partisan activists, but all the evidence is that these can only operate in east Aleppo under license from the al-Qaeda-type groups. It is inevitable that an opposition movement fighting for its life in wartime will only produce, or allow to be produced by others, information that is essentially propaganda for its own side.”
In another article, Cockburn reiterates:
“By kidnapping and killing [foreign journalists], it is easy to create a vacuum of information that is great in demand and will, in future, be supplied by informants sympathetic to or at the mercy of the very same people (in this case the jihadi rulers of east Aleppo) who have kept out the foreign journalists. Killing or abducting the latter turns out to have been a smart move by the jihadis because it enabled them to establish substantial control of news reaching the outside world.”
Then again, as this situation plays right into the hands of the US-NATO interventionists, we have to ask ourselves to what extent this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. As the imperialists and their regional proxies (Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey in particular) continue to supply both Syrian and foreign jihadis with weapons, finances and training while knowing full well the nature of these insurgents, it would be naive to think that the jihadi media monopoly was not the intended outcome. Moreover, NATO has been able to exert considerable influence in the propaganda that is exported to the West, not only through funding but also by providing special “media training” to the very same “rebel activists” that are the primordial disinformation agents in sustaining the false narrative. Most notably, the French government and the EU funded the notorious Aleppo Media Center, and, in addition to George Soros’ Open Society Foundation, the US, the UK and some other countries have made large contributions to the White Helmets, an opposition-linked NGO established by a former British intelligence officer. Not surprisingly, both organisations continuously blame the Syrian government for everything, just like NATO, and tirelessly call for a Libya-style no-fly zone, just like NATO.
The suppressed voices: Aleppo’s citizenry
Reaffirming its methodology of reporting on the war in Syria, the mass media is relying almost exclusively on the unverified accounts of a handful of obscure sources representing only a tiny minority of Aleppo’s population, implying that their view of seeing the Syrian government not just as the primary, but as the sole culprit of all the dead and devastation surrounding them is shared by most of Aleppo’s citizens. Yet, the two other parts of the Aleppo citizenry, both much greater in number, are ignored by the mainstream media.
First of all, we have to take into account that Aleppo has been artificially divided for the last four and a half years as a result of the war. The historical order of the city was restored by the reunification of its eastern and western parts. The population of the west – estimated at 1.5 million, several times higher than that of the east – is therefore significant to the story. Yet, while the Western press constantly quoted “activists” in east Aleppo, it failed to listen to what west Aleppans had to say about the situation in their city. Certainly the well-oiled propaganda machine would have brought demonstrations mourning the “fall” of east Aleppo to our attention, if there were any. Not only had opposition-linked social media none of the sort to offer their imperialist funders, but the absolute opposite happened when it became clear that the army’s seizure of east Aleppo was imminent. Indeed, many west Aleppo citizens took to the streets to celebrate, not decry, the government’s retaking of east Aleppo while waving not rebel-backed Free Syrian Army flags, but official ones.
Second, and even more important, are the civilians that fled to government-controlled areas. According to UN and Red Cross estimates, 34.000 to 35.000 people have been evacuated to rebel-held Idlib. Take in mind that although these undoubtedly include some unarmed civilians, they are mostly made up of thousands of fighters and their families, as hinted by UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura. As the media consistently claimed (and probably exaggerated to some extent) that there were at least 250.000 civilians trapped in east Aleppo for the last few months, this means that a much larger amount of east Aleppans have flocked to government-controlled areas. Indeed, according to the Russian Reconciliation Center, more than 100.000 civilians (including over 40.000 children) had left the eastern part of the city by 12 December, when fighting was still ongoing. When we listen to the stories of these refugees, it becomes clear why the mass media chose to ignore what they had to say.
First and foremost, long-time Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk interviewed one of the very first Muslim families that fled eastern Aleppo during a ceasefire a couple of weeks before the final advance of the Syrian army:
“The father had just been told that his brother was to be executed by the rebels because he crossed the frontline with his wife and son. He condemned the rebels for closing the schools and putting weapons close to hospitals. And he was no pro-regime stooge; he even admired Isis for their good behaviour in the early days of the siege.”
Andrew Ashdown, a British Anglican priest, visited east Aleppo and the centre for internally displaced persons at Jibreen on 14 December, emphasising that the Syrian authorities did not receive prior notice of his visit. I could not but cite a large chunk of his account:
“The sense of relief amongst the thousands of refugees is palpable. All were keen to talk [and] all said the same thing. They said that they had been living in fear. They reported that the fighters have been telling everyone that the Syrian Army would kill anyone who fled to the West, but had killed many themselves who tried to leave – men, women and children. One woman broke down in tears as she told how one of her sons was killed by the rebels a few days ago, and another kidnapped. They also killed anyone who showed signs of supporting the Government. The refugees said that the ‘rebels’ told them that only those who support them are ‘true Muslims’, and that everyone else are ‘infidels’ and deserve to die.
They told us they had been given very little food: that any aid that reached the area was mostly refused to them or sold at exorbitant prices. Likewise, most had been given no medical treatment. […] Most of the refugees said they had had members of their families killed by the rebels and consistently spoke of widespread murder, torture, rape and kidnap by the rebels. […] They all said they were glad to be out and to be free. All the refugees without exception were visibly without exception clearly profoundly relieved and happy to be free.”
This may sound absurd if you consistently relied on the mainstream media for the last few months. None of the stories of other journalists and travellers that have visited Aleppo, including US congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, contradict Ashdown’s account, however. All recorded testimonies of east Aleppo residents speak of the unimaginably barbaric behaviour of the insurgents, and no one relinquishes “moderates” from this inhumane activity. As a matter of fact, the residents themselves don’t seem to make a distinction between “extremist” terrorists and “moderate” rebels. The discrepancy between the narrative of the Western press and that of the people who are actually living through this is just mind-boggling. Vanessa Beeley, for instance, visited east Aleppo on 11 December and interviewed a woman from Hanano, who said, among other things, that one woman told the insurgents she wanted to leave, after which they shot her in the mouth. Most tellingly, though, Bolivian-American actress and filmmaker Carla Ortiz, who spent eight months in Syria working on a documentary called Voice of Syria, somehow found her way to a CNN studio to share what east Aleppo residents told her:
“[They told me] how they were starved, how they were deprived from education, how, if they would dare to cross to the other side the terrorists would kill them, how little girls are […] sexually abused. […] They say for them it’s just Daesh [ISIS]; they don’t care if it’s a rebel or Free Syrian Army [fighter].”
It should be noted that, contrary to the situation in rebel-held areas, the Syrian government does not have a full-scale monopoly on news in areas under its control. In a rare instance for the Western press, the BBC even had a correspondent on the ground during the final stages of fighting in Aleppo. As the BBC has been trying to demonise the Syrian government at every turn for the last five years (including manipulating, and most likely even fabricating, video evidence of alleged chemical warfare by the Syrian army), you would expect its correspondent, Lyse Doucet, to find as many civilian accounts as possible to corroborate the undocumented allegations of government atrocities. Surely she could have easily countered all the above-mentioned stories if they would tell only half of the story, as she talked to many refugees from east Aleppo. When going through her reporting, however, none of the sort is to be found. Moreover, although she clearly tries to bend the issue as much as possible to the “both sides are equally bad” narrative, it looks like she only managed to find seemingly pro-government families to talk to. Indeed, in two separate videos, a woman and children are filmed praising Assad, the army and the government.
In context: coverage of Aleppo during the war on Syria
By now, it has become quite clear that most media coverage of the reunification of Aleppo is the absolute antithesis of the reality on the ground. But what about the last four and a half years, was there ever any objectivity in the major news outlets’ reports?
Aleppo was Syria’s largest city before the war and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. According to the dominant narrative, Aleppo rose up against the dictatorial Syrian government in July-August 2012, paving the way for pro-democracy fighters to liberate the ancient city. Yet, by the end of August, when the “revolutionaries” had taken control of much of the city, a rebel commander admitted to the Guardian that the overwhelming majority of the Aleppo citizenry was pro-government:
“Around 70% of Aleppo city is with the regime. It has always been that way. The countryside is with us and the city is with them. We are saying that we will only be here as long as it takes to get the job done, to get rid of the Assads. After that, we will leave and they can build the city that they want.”
Taking this into account, the word “uprising” seems inapplicable. Indeed, as acknowledged by India’s then ambassador to Syria, it was pretty clear that the people in Aleppo did not want to take part in the armed rebellion’s so-called revolution:
“Aleppo remained calm and this troubled the [armed] opposition greatly. The opposition couldn’t get the people in Aleppo to rise up against the regime so they sent bus loads of people to Aleppo. These people would burn something on the streets and leave. Journalists would then broadcast this saying Aleppo had risen.”
Rather than an internal revolt, the armed opposition invaded the city in convoy trucks coming from the north. The BBC’s Ian Pannell even rode in with the militants into Aleppo, admitting in his otherwise twisted report (the scenes of which look an awful lot like what the Indian diplomat described above) that “many fear what they are really seeing is an Islamic takeover.”
And so the eastern part of Syria’s financial and industrial centre fell to the Islamist insurgents. In the next few years, media attention mainly moved to other parts of Syria, and Aleppo remained divided. Media hysteria stirred up again in 2016, conveniently around the time it became clear that the Syrian army was slowly gaining the upperhand. Opposition-linked social media often went into overdrive, making up countless false stories and producing a myriad of undocumented allegations of government atrocities, which were then eagerly adopted by the Western press. In July temporarily, and in September permanently, the army finally managed to encircle rebel-held east Aleppo, thus imposing a siege. This provoked unilateral outrage among Western officials, totally neglecting the fact that they have either been directly responsible for or supportive of numerous other inhumane siege-like situations in the region – from the years-long devastating sieges of the al-Qaeda-affiliated militants on the villages of Foua, Kafraya, Nubl and Zahraa in Syria, to the vast humanitarian crises and hundreds of civilian deaths resulting from the US military campaigns to drive Daesh (ISIS) out of Mosul, Manbij, Fallujah and many other Iraqi and Syrian cities, to similar past and present sieges in the Middle East such as the US siege on Iraq that left 500.000 children dead according to UN estimates or the US Navy-backed blockade on Yemen’s ports, not to mention the crippling Israeli blockade on the Gaza strip, and last but not least, to the catastrophic economic sanctions imposed by the US and the EU on the whole of the Syrian people, some of which were installed well ahead of the eruption of violence in 2011.
Now that they are driven out of Aleppo, the true face of the insurgents is emerging, and the fake narrative propagated by the mainstream media is falling apart. Reports of Syrian and Russian troops finding mass graves with bodies showing signs of torture and mutilation confirms the accounts of civilians who have lived under the jihadi occupation. This does not mean that the West’s leading news producers could not have known the real story of Aleppo prior to its seizure by the army, however. They downplayed as much as they could the fact that these Western- and Gulf-equipped so-called revolutionaries killed hundreds of civilians by indiscriminately shelling urban parts of west Aleppo on an almost daily basis during the whole of 2016, leaving UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura “appalled and shocked” of the rebels’ usage of disproportionate weapons.
While the Western press seized every opportunity to smear pro-government forces by persistently giving a platform to undocumented claims of the same “rebel activists” known for their numerous lies, it remained silent when the jihadis shot at civilians trying to leave. While the picture of Omran Daqneesh, the (supposedly) wounded toddler in the ambulance, made it to almost all front pages across the globe, the story of 12-year-old Abdullah Issa, who was beheaded by the US-backed “moderate rebels” of Nour al-Din al-Zinki, remains largely untold. While the mainstream media cried crocodile tears every time the jihadis claimed that Russian or Syrian air strikes leveled the “last hospital” in east Aleppo, it ignored refugee accounts that denounced the rebels for depriving them of education and medical treatment. While the press decried the alleged death of the “last pediatrician” in an attack on the makeshift al-Quds hospital (which did almost certainly not even happen), it ignored accounts of real doctors in Aleppo refuting the mainstream media lies. Instead of listening to the few civilians that managed to flee east Aleppo prior to the final advance of the army in December, the mainstream media kept relying solely on “activists” embedded with the Islamists, thereby prolonging the suffering of the Syrian people by convincing Western policy makers, and much of the world by extension, that rebel successes must be cheered upon. And thus, when the outside world mourned the fall of Aleppo, Syrians celebrated its liberation.
While the corporate press is now labelling everything not in accordance with its own coverage as “fake news,” this article has made it pretty clear who the chiefs of deception really are. One must not underestimate the power of the fourth branch of the government. If it serves not as a critical examinator of government policies but instead as its purveyor and mouthpiece and at the same time is still regarded as “pluralistic and free,” a very dangerous cocktail of propaganda emerges. The masses could then be convinced into supporting wars of aggression, which is exactly what happened in the lead up to the military campaigns against Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam. What makes you think this is any different?
 “Southpark – we are just reporting it,” Youtube channel of PeanutButterFingers, 26.05.2014, consulted on 15.12.2016, http://youtube.com/watch?v=Zd0p96miSK8.
 Many documented examples are mentioned in part 3 and 4 of my The proxy war on Syria series: Bas Spliet, “The proxy war on Syria – part 3: Does Assad ‘kill his own people?’ Deconstructing the ‘Assad must go’ narrative,” Scrutinised Minds, 13.12.2016, https://scrutinisedminds.com/2016/12/13/the-proxy-war-on-syria-part-3-does-assad-kill-his-own-people-deconstructing-the-assad-must-go-narrative/; Bas Spliet, “The proxy war on Syria – part 4: The export of disinformation,” Scrutinised Minds, 20.12.2016, https://scrutinisedminds.com/2016/12/20/the-proxy-war-on-syria-part-4-the-export-of-disinformation/.
 Michael Weiss, Roy Gutman and Alex Powell, “Women in Aleppo choose suicide over rape, rebels report,” The Daily Beast, 13.12.2016, http://.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/12/12/last-rebels-in-aleppo-say-assad-forces-are-burning-people-alive.html.
 “Estimated 100,000 civilians still trapped in Aleppo,” CNN, 13.12.2016, http://edition.cnn.com/videos/world/2016/12/13/crisis-as-syrian-troops-advance-pleitgen-lkl.cnn.
 “Aleppo resident: ‘nowhere to go’ as bombs interrupt interview,” BBC, 14.12.2016, http://bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-38315465.
 May Bulman, “Aleppo: more than 100 children in building under heavy attack, says Unicef,” The Independent, 13.12.2016, http://independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/aleppo-children-trapped-syria-civil-war-unaccompanied-unicef-eastern-a7472506.html.
 Jack Khoury, “Aleppo: massacre reported as Syrian army presses assault on last rebel holdout,” Haaretz, 13.12.2016, http://haaretz.com/middle-east-news/syria/1.758513.
 Weis, Gutman and Powell, “Women in Aleppo choose suicide over rape.”
 Following a long pattern throughout this war, fake images and images falsely attributed to Aleppo have also circulated widely on social media. For the most part, however, the mainstream media was wise enough not to jump on that bandwagon. For some examples, see “Fake ‘Aleppo genocide’ pics spread online amid new calls for ‘humanitarian’ war on Syria,” Mintpress News, 20.12.2016, http://.mintpressnews.com/fake-aleppo-genocide-pics-spread-amid-new-calls-for-war-on-syria/223306/; “Fake images about Aleppo circulate on social media, France 24, 15.12.2016, http://observers.france24.com/en/20161215-fake-images-aleppo-social-media.
 “Aleppo battle: UN says civilians shot on the spot,” BBC, 13.12.2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-38301629.
 “‘Assad tue des civils’: un responsable de l’ONU accuse, mais, penaud, ne peut rien prouver,” Youtube-channel of RT France, 16.12.2016, consulted on 21.12.2016, http://youtube.com/watch?v=Up3ZPoautDo.
 “Statement by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic on the situation of civilians affected by the capture of Aleppo,” UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 14.12.2016, http://ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21031&LangID=E.
 Bas Spliet, “The proxy war on Syria – part 2: The two myths about the armed opposition,” Scrutinised Minds, 06.12.2016, https://scrutinisedminds.com/2016/12/06/the-proxy-war-on-syria-part-2-the-two-myths-about-the-armed-opposition/; also acknowledged in the past by the pro-rebel Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: “Calls grow for Syrian government to end Aleppo siege,” The Daily Star, 29.07.2016, http://dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2016/Jul-29/364570-calls-grow-for-syria-government-to-end-aleppo-siege.ashx.
 Patrick Cockburn, “This is why everything you’ve read about the wars in Syria and Iraq could be wrong,” The Independent, 02.12.2016, http://.independent.co.uk/voices/syria-aleppo-iraq-mosul-isis-middle-east-conflict-assad-war-everything-youve-read-could-be-wrong-a7451656.html.
 Patrick Cockburn, “There’s more propaganda than news coming out of Aleppo this week,” The Independent, 17.12.2016, http://independent.co.uk/voices/aleppo-crisis-syrian-war-bashar-al-assad-isis-more-propaganda-than-news-a7479901.html.
 “Syria – killing journos enabled ‘media activist’ domination – intended effect?”, Moon of Alabama, 19.12.2016, http://moonofalabama.org/2016/12/unconventional-warfare-killing-journalists-creates-media-activist-domination.html#more.
 Vanessa Beeley, “‘Aleppo Media Center’ funded by French Foreign Office, EU and US,” 21st Century Wire, 20.09.2016, http://21stcenturywire.com/2016/09/20/exclusive-aleppo-media-centre-funded-by-french-foreign-office-eu-and-us/.
 Brandon Turbeville, “White Helmets NGO: a ‘rescue and assist’ operation under the guise of human rights,” Mintpress News, 11.05.2016, http://mintpressnews.com/white-helmets-ngo-rescue-assist-operation-guise-human-rights/216324/.
 Clearly visible in video’s presented by RT, Press TV and Reuters: “Street celebrations in Aleppo on news of Syrian army retaking east of city – RT reporter,” RT, 12.12.2016, http://rt.com/news/370084-aleppo-liberation-reports-celebrations/; “Celebrations in Aleppo after its full liberation,” Youtube-channel of Press TV News Videos, 22.12.2016, consulted on 24.12.2016, http://youtube.com/watch?v=Cgh6wcqQamM; “Celebrating victory in Aleppo,” Reuters, 22.12.2016, http://reuters.com/video/2016/12/22/celebrating-victory-in-aleppo?videoId=370787914. Also acknowledged by the pro-rebel Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (according to which, celebrations erupted in several cities), al-Jazeera, the Daily Mail and International Business Times: “Celebrations of ‘Aleppo victory’ in cities and areas controlled by the regime forces,” Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 23.12.2016, http://syriahr.com/en/?p=57657; “Rebel-held east Aleppo nears collapse,” Al-Jazeera, 13.12.2016, http://aljazeera.com/news/2016/12/rebel-held-east-aleppo-nears-collapse-161212195346604.html; “Merry Christmas in Aleppo (if you’re on the winning side): dozens of Assad loyalists dress up as Santa and ‘celebrate’ in shattered city square,” The Daily Mail, 21.12.2016, http://dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4055526/Merry-Christmas-Aleppo-winning-Dozens-locals-dress-Santa-celebrate-square-enjoy-taste-normality.html; Tom O’Conner, “Christmas in Aleppo: photos, video show Christians celebrate Assad victory in Syria,” International Business Times, 22.12.2016, http://ibtimes.com/christmas-aleppo-photos-video-show-christians-celebrate-assad-victory-syria-2464372.
 Ellen Francis, “Syrian army announces victory in Aleppo in boost for Assad,” Reuters, 22.12.2016, http://reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-idUSKBN14B1NQ.
 “Syria: Aleppo evacuation completed,” Red Cross UK, 23.12.2016, http://redcross.org.uk/About-us/News/2016/December/Syria-Aleppo-evacuation-completed.
 John Irish and Alison Williams, “U.N. Syria envoy says rebel city Idlib risks Aleppo fate if no peace talks,” Reuters, 15.12.2016, http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-mideast-crisis-syria-demistura-idUKKBN1442N4.
 “Over 100,000 civilians left eastern Aleppo since operation against militants began,” Russian News Agency TASS, 12.12.2016, http://tass.com/world/918621. Note that no other world body or more neutral organisation bothered to estimated the amount of civilians that fled to government-controlled areas. Therefore, I had to resort to the estimation of the Russian Reconciliation Center.
 Robert Fisk, “There is more than one truth to tell in the terrible story of Aleppo,” Counterpunch, 14.12.2016, http://counterpunch.org/2016/12/14/there-is-more-than-one-truth-to-tell-in-the-terrible-story-of-aleppo/.
 Andrew Ashdown, “Aleppo: the truth that the Western media refuses to report,” Talfanzine, 15.12.2016, http://talfanzine.info/blog/2016/12/15/aleppo-the-truth-that-the-western-media-refuses-to-report/.
 Some other examples of testimonies and interviews: Jan Oberg, “The destruction of eastern Aleppo, Syria: December 2016,” Jan Oberg Exposure, 25.12.2016, http://janoberg.exposure.co/the-destruction-of-eastern-aleppo-syria; Jan Oberg, “Humans in liberated Aleppo: December 11-12, 2016,” Jan Oberg Exposure, 29.12.2016, http://janoberg.exposure.co/humans-in-liberated-aleppo; Charlotte d’Ornellas, “Alep Liberée: un reportage de Charlotte d’Ornellas,” Youtube channel of Boulevard Voltaire, 29.12.2016, consulted on 30.12.2016, http://youtube.com/watch?v=w8DJJDCGQ9g&app=desktop; Robert Fisk, “‘We were living a real tragedy in east Aleppo’: one family’s journey across the city amid the bloodshed,” The Independent, 01.11.2016, http://independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/thousands-of-civilian-families-forced-by-militias-to-remain-in-eastern-aleppo-a7389346.html.
 Vanessa Beeley, “East Aleppo video diaries: Hanano testimonies that shatter corporate media propaganda myths,” 21st Century Wire, 22.12.2016, http://21stcenturywire.com/2016/12/20/aleppo-diaries-bearing-witness-to-the-liberation-of-hanano-east-aleppo-a-personal-view-by-vanessa-beeley/. Other testimonies of east Aleppo residents can be found at the video section of her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/vanessa.beeley/videos?lst=100001241535936%3A667683867%3A1483038887.
 “Surprise: Carla Ortiz tells truth about Syria on CNN – fake news network,” Youtube-channel of Daily News TV, 22.12.2016, consulted on 25.12.2016, http://youtube.com/watch?v=uoL_Vu5Oqy0.
 Spliet, “The proxy war on Syria – part 4.”
 Lyse Doucet, “Aleppo siege: ‘we are crying and afraid’,” BBC, 03.12.2016, http://bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-38194962; “Syria: celebrations as families return to homes in Aleppo,” BBC, 06.12.2016, http://bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-38218086; Lyse Doucet, “Aleppo’s terrified residents flee rebel districts, dead and hunger,” Guardian, 10.12.2016, http://theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/10/aleppos-terrified-residents-tell-of-death-and-hunger-as-flee-rebel-districts.
 Martin Chulov, “Syrian rebels fight on for Aleppo despite local wariness,” Guardian, 21.08.2012, http://theguardian.com/world/2012/aug/21/syrian-rebels-aleppo-local-hostility.
 Alia Allana, “Gulf countries played a role in the Syrian uprising,” Fountain Ink, http://series.fountainink.in/gulf-countries-role-uprising/.
 Tony Cartalucci, “In Syria – how to ‘liberate’ a pro-army city? NATO terrorists come to overrun, not ‘liberate,’ Aleppo,” Land Destroyer, 25.06.2012, http://landdestroyer.blogspot.be/2012/07/in-syria-how-to-liberate-pro-army-city.html.
 Ian Pannell, “Aleppo: BBC journalist on Syria warplanes bombing city,” BBC, 24.07.2012, http://bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-18976690. For a critical review of Ian Pannell’s coverage, see Tony Cartalucci, “BBC rides with al Qaeda in Aleppo, Syria,” Land Destroyer, 25.06.2012, http://landdestroyer.blogspot.be/2012/07/bbc-rides-with-al-qaeda-in-aleppo-syria.html.
 The case of the alleged destruction of a Doctors Without Borders-supported hospital by a Syrian or Russian airstrike and the case of Omran Daqneesh, the boy in the ambulance, are discussed in part 3 and 4 of my The proxy war on Syria series, respectively. The amount of exposed false allegations, however, are too numerous to recount here.
 This unimaginable hypocrisy is explained perfectly in Stephen Gowans, “Our sieges and theirs,” What’s Left, 20.10.2016, http://gowans.wordpress.com/2016/10/20/our-sieges-and-theirs/.
 “Mass graves discovered in Aleppo, bodies showed signs of torture,” CBC News, 26.12.2016, http://cbc.ca/news/world/mass-graves-discovered-in-aleppo-bodies-showed-signs-of-torture-1.3912716.
 “Syrian rebels’ Aleppo offensive could amount to war crimes, UN envoy warns,” Guardian, 31.10.2016, http://theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/31/syrian-rebels-aleppo-offensive-could-amount-to-war-crimes-un-envoy-warns.
 “Gunfire intensifies in Aleppo despite ceasefire,” ITV News, 20.10.2016, http://itv.com/news/2016-10-20/itv-news-witnesses-fierce-gunfight-in-aleppo-despite-ceasefire/.
 Eva Bartlett, “Western corporate media ‘disappears’ over 1.5 million Syrians and 4,000 doctors,” Signs of the Times, 14.08.2016, http://sott.net/article/325238-Western-corporate-media-disappears-over-1-5-million-Syrians-and-4000-doctors; Patrik Paulov, “‘Aleppo has been under fire by terrorists for four years.’ Interview with Aleppo doctor about life in Syria’s largest city.” Protetarën, 25.05.2016, http://proletaren.se/utrikes-mellanostern/aleppo-has-been-under-fire-terrorists-four-years; “A Syrian physician demolishes the propaganda put out by politicians and the media,” Ora Pro Siria, 26.07.2016, http://oraprosiria.blogspot.be/2016/07/a-syrian-physician-demolishes.html?m=1.
 Christoph Germann, “The world’s biggest hostage crisis is coming to an end,” Newsbud, 08.12.2016, http://newsbud.com/2016/12/08/newsbud-exclusive-the-worlds-biggest-hostage-crisis-comes-to-an-end/.