Living conditions deteriorate in northern Aleppo due to regime’s siege

One of the streets of Sheikh Maqsood neighborhood, north of Aleppo city - November 28, 2023 (Enab Baladi)

One of the streets of Sheikh Maqsood neighborhood, north of Aleppo city - November 28, 2023 (Enab Baladi)


Residents of Ashrafiyah and Sheikh Maqsood neighborhoods in Aleppo, as well as other areas in the northern countryside, are facing difficult living conditions due to a siege imposed by the Syrian regime.

The regime has closed off the roads leading to the area, preventing the entry of fuel and essential supplies managed by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (the political umbrella of the Syrian Democratic Forces.

As a result of the siege, the Autonomous Administration has closed the schools it operates in Sheikh Maqsood, Ashrafiyah, and other areas in northern Aleppo governorate, due to what it called the “government siege” imposed on the region.

On November 26, the General Municipalities Authority in Afrin and Shahba areas of Aleppo province decided to suspend school classes in Sheikh Maqsood, Ashrafiyah, as well as in the city of Tel Rifaat and its surrounding areas.

The decision was made due to the current situation in Afrin and Shahba areas, the lack of fuel and transportation fuel, and will remain in effect until further notice.

A teacher in one of the facilities operated by the Autonomous Administration in Sheikh Maqsood, who preferred not to disclose her name for security reasons, stated that school closures have become inevitable due to the shortage of fuel necessary for transportation of students.

She added that closure has become the only option in light of the intensifying siege, which has been increasing day by day, affecting the residents and schools in the area.

Fadel Jawish, the co-president of the Education and Youth Authority in northern Aleppo countryside, attributed the closure to the fact that students and teachers used to go from their homes to schools through cars provided by the Autonomous Administration. However, the shortage of diesel has resulted in the suspension of all transportation, making it impossible for these students and teachers to reach their schools.

Street leading to the market in Sheikh Maqsood neighborhood, Aleppo - November 28, 2023 (Enab Baladi)

The street leading to the market in Sheikh Maqsood neighborhood, northern Aleppo city – March 25, 2023 (Enab Baladi)

Continuous siege

Ibrahim Sheikhou, a resident of Tel Rifaat in northern Aleppo, told Enab Baladi that the situation in the city and surrounding villages has become “disastrous”.

The Fourth Division, affiliated with the Syrian regime, has been imposing a siege on the Autonomous Administration-controlled areas since 2020, exacerbating the suffering of the population, especially with the presence of many children and elderly individuals in need of medical care.

The young man, who works for a human rights organization in the same area, mentioned that the administration-controlled areas are currently suffering from a severe fuel shortage.

Furthermore, the current siege is not the first of its kind and it has been repeated annually.

Hawar News Agency quoted Ariyan Hanan, the Deputy General Council for Sheikh Maqsood and Ashrafiyah neighborhoods, stating that the administration has made a “great effort” to provide fuel and distribute it to the residents.

However, the siege and the shelling faced by the area in northeast Syria have become major obstacles. As a result, only limited quantities, estimated at around 100 liters per family, are available.

Hanan also mentioned that the ability to confirm another distribution process is currently limited until all current families have been covered by the previously determined quantity.

Sheikhou pointed out that in addition to the fuel shortage, the area is also suffering from a severe shortage of medications, as the pharmacies and medical centers do not have sufficient quantities of drugs, forcing a large segment of displaced people and residents to buy medicines at very high prices.

Approximately, Sheikh Maqsood and Ashrafiyah neighborhoods controlled by the SDF inside the Syrian government-controlled areas in Aleppo, northern Syria

Sheikh Maqsood and Ashrafiyah neighborhoods are controlled by the SDF within the Syrian regime-controlled areas in Aleppo, northern Syria.

Diminishing services

The teacher working in Sheikh Maqsood neighborhood told Enab Baladi that the continuous siege imposed by the regime since 2020 has recently worsened.

She added that electricity is continuously being cut off due to the fuel shortage, resulting in excessively higher ampere subscription prices. According to the teacher, the price of one ampere has reached 22,500 Syrian pounds per week. Additionally, the hours of power outages have increased to preserve the limited available fuel for private generator owners.

Considering the prolonged siege, the only hospital and medical center in Fafin town are vital for the provision of healthcare services, according to Sheikhou. He stated that there are medical clinics in the displacement camps; however, these clinics suffer from a shortage of drugs due to the absence of humanitarian organizations in the area.

With the only hospital in the area on the verge of closure due to the lack of supplies, residents feel that services are disappearing while the need for them is urgent.

Bakeries and water networks are still operational in the area. However, their cessation would have a negative impact on the humanitarian situation in Sheikh Maqsood and Ashrafiyah neighborhoods, according to Sheikhou.

A member of the oil sector of the SDF in al-Hasakah governorate previously told Enab Baladi that the SDF and the Syrian regime rely on the barter mechanism to deliver oil to regime-controlled security squares in al-Hasakah and Qamishli, and to the Sheikh Maksood and Ashrafiyah neighborhoods in Aleppo.

The SDF monthly enters about 35 tons of crude oil into the regime’s spheres of influence in al-Hasakah and Qamishli, for free, while the regime enters the same quantity into the Sheikh Maksood and Ashrafiyah neighborhoods, free of charge as well.

The electricity is cut off around a camp near Tel Rifaat due to fuel scarcity - November 27, 2023 (Enab Baladi)

Electricity is cut off from a camp near Tel Rifaat due to fuel scarcity – November 27, 2023 (Enab Baladi)

Mutual siege

In early April 2022, elements of the Fourth Division, located in the vicinity of Sheikh Maqsood neighborhood, which is under the control of the Autonomous Administration in Aleppo, barred cars loaded with flour from entering the neighborhood’s bakeries.

This happened during a living crisis in the area. The area is the only one under the control of the Autonomous Administration in Aleppo city, following several military campaigns by Turkey towards the administration-controlled areas in northern Aleppo province.

These campaigns led to a reduction in the administration’s influence to small neighborhoods in Aleppo city, as well as a number of villages in the northern countryside.

The Autonomous Administration, in response, imposed a siege on the security squares controlled by the regime in al-Hassakah and Qamishli, and gained control of some government buildings and institutions in those areas.

The Internal Security Forces (Asayish) then controlled some of what it described as “important points” from “government institutions” on Qamishli city’s Cultural Center Street, but the SDF denied this information at the time.

According to information obtained by Enab Baladi from an informed source at Qamishli Airport who requested not to be named, Russian officers held two meetings with the Autonomous Administration in the early days of the mutual siege.

These meetings were attended by the commander of the “Tartab” Regiment, affiliated with the regime, with the aim of reaching a “settlement” to lift the siege on the security squares.

تظهر مدينة تل رفعت منفصلة عن مدينة منبج وبمعزل عن مناطق سيطرة “قسد” الأخرى في منبج وعين العرب/كوباني، كما تفصل مناطق النفوذ التركي عن مدينة حلب

The city of Tel Rifaat is separate from the city of Manbij and isolated from other areas under the control of the SDF in Manbij and Ain al-Arab/Kobani. It also separates Turkish influence zones from the city of Aleppo.

Enab Baladi’s correspondent in al-Hasakah, Rita al-Ahmad, contributed to this report.


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