For a time on Dec. 13, the four-year brutal and bloody battle for Aleppo came to a grinding halt. It looked like the violence that displaced hundreds of thousands from their homes, leaving traces of death and destruction everywhere and destroying Syria’s largest metropolis, a UNESCO heritage site, and one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, might end.

Less than a day after it was announced, a ceasefire agreement that would have allowed rebels and families to evacuate the city, collapsed. The United Nations described it as “a complete meltdown of humanity.” In the Security Council, Samantha Power, the United States ambassador to the UN, accused Russia, Syria, and Iran of committing “an act of barbarism” and of tightening a “noose around civilians” in the city. On Dec. 14, the Eiffel Tower went dark to show solidarity with the people of Aleppo, just as a new deal was negotiated overnight to allow trapped civilians to leave.

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