Syrian Army soldiers loyal to President Bashar al-Assad take aim at rebels during a battle in Aleppo’s al-Liramun neighbourhood. Photo AFP/Getty Images
I had been trying to get to Aleppo for ages, but was unable to do so because rebel activity had cut off the city from the outside world. Syrian government military successes at the start of January meant there was at last a safe road. I hired a driver, was allocated a government minder (very handy at checkpoints), and booked into a hotel. Driving north from Damascus, we picked up a 22-year-old Syrian army lieutenant called Ali, returning to his unit after eight days’ leave with his family.
We drove through Homs — miles and miles of utter devastation — and then east on to the Raqqa road. Ali told me that he had been assigned to Kuweires military airport east…
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