contents
Your weekly briefing on the state of 
humanity
SEE ALL ISSUES
EDITOR'S LETTER
A second third way?
NEWS FEATURE 1
How WannaCry took the world by storm
NEWS FEATURE 2
China pushes ahead with ambitious One Belt, One Road project
DIGEST AMERICAS
Who stands against narco violence in Mexico?
DIGEST EUROPE
Merkel takes a giant step towards a fourth term as chancellor
DIGEST EUROPE
In Berlin, Macron tests the waters for his European shake-up
DIGEST EUROPE
Ukraine takes its fight with Russia to social media
DIGEST ASIA-PACIFIC
North Korea inches closer to striking the US mainland
DIGEST AFRICA
Mass jailbreak frees Christian separatist leader in Kinshasa
DIGEST AFRICA
Tunisia: Protests return to the cradle of the Arab Spring
DIGEST MIDDLE EAST
Sesame science: A unifying force in the divided Middle East
DIGEST MIDDLE EAST
The high stakes of Iran’s presidential election
DIGEST MIDDLE EAST
Cholera deaths highlight Yemen’s plight
THE PICTURE
Praying with fire
GOOD NEWS
Brazil declares end of Zika public health emergency
Big Data platform to help farmers weather harsh climates
THE  INFOGRAPHIC
The cost of hacking
IN SCIENCE
3D printer creates ‘bionic skin’
IN MEDICINE
Did a stroke of bad luck put an end to the dinosaurs?
IN TECHNOLOGY
Are ‘Internet abortions’ safe?
www.theguardian.com
In limbo in Melilla: the young refugees trapped in Spain's African enclave
www.aljazeera.com
Connecting Iquitos: Building a road through the Amazon
www.theatlantic.com
Richard Spencer Was My High-School Classmate

Siege, chemical weapons and misinformation: How Assad broke Aleppo

Syrian Civil War
See 241 more
Civilians wait to be evacuated from the east part of Aleppo.
Mamun Ebu Omer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Civilians wait to be evacuated from the east part of Aleppo.
A mid some of the most intense fighting since the start of the conflict, the Kremlin and the Syrian government remained adamant: they had never targeted hospitals. Moscow spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there was no “proof” of such allegations, while President Bashar al-Assad stressed that his government had no “policy to destroy hospitals or schools”. Now a new report looking at how the Assad regime and its allies retook the city of Aleppo repudiates just that, using evidence ranging from satellite imagery to security camera footage, photographs, witness statements, and Russian television.
The authors of ‘Breaking Aleppo’, which was produced by the Washington-based Atlantic Council, note that the high number of verified airstrikes on eastern Aleppo hospitals or medical facilities between June and December 2016 (73 according to the Syrian American Medical Society), the government’s intimate knowledge of the area and the repeated confiscation of medical supplies from aid convoys suggest “that the Assad government and its allies, including Russia, did indeed have a policy of targeting Syria’s hospitals”. Such a policy would constitute a war crime under international law.
“Hospitals were the only window of life during the siege, they were destroyed completely,” Abdul Kafi al-Hamdo, an activist and teacher who lived through the siege on the eastern part of the city, told The World Weekly. Looking back at the time he left eastern Aleppo, he said: “Finally they gave us only two choices: either deaths by bombs or to be displaced… We decided to give our children another chance of life.”
Roughly two months after the fall of Aleppo to the regime, the report is more than just an exercise in history as President Assad and his allies continue to depict the war as one against “terrorists” rather than a mainstream opposition. In Aleppo and elsewhere this PR campaign has involved “re-branding… civilians as legitimate targets”, the report argues. Overall, the authors speak of a “separate disinformation campaign, aimed at distracting attention from events on the ground by focusing on discrediting, and silencing, the ones who were reporting them”.
The grand strategy to capture Aleppo, then the opposition’s most important urban stronghold, also included the use of incendiary munitions and chemical weapons. Human Rights Watch this week said Syrian government forces had conducted “coordinated chemical attacks” on opposition-held parts of the city, stating that government helicopters dropped chlorine in residential areas on at least eight different occasions between mid-November and mid-December, killing at least nine civilians and injuring 200 people. This happened despite a 2013 agreement brokered by the US and Russia ordering Damascus to get rid of its chemical weapons stockpile.
The Atlantic Council concludes that its “findings are a sound rebuttal to the regime coalition’s deliberate obfuscation and denials over what happened” in Aleppo.
For Mr. al-Hamdo, Aleppo during the siege was a city of death and horror, but also “the city of freedom”.
Manuel Langendorf
The World Weekly
16 February 2017 - last edited 16 February 2017