On March 23, the Aleppo City Council demolished several residential buildings in the city’s eastern neighbourhoods. The demolition campaign first targeted five buildings in the Al-Saliheen neighbourhood, then expanded to include other buildings in neighbouring areas. The city council’s Public Safety Committee previously evacuated residents from the buildings slated for demolition.
Several residential buildings have collapsed in Al-Saliheen since regime forces recaptured the neighbourhood and other parts of east Aleppo in late 2016. The most recent incident was in December 2021, when two buildings collapsed just days after they had been evacuated due to structural cracks. Afterwards, the Directorate of Technical Services in Bab Al-Neirab, which is affiliated with the city council and serves Al-Saliheen, demolished a third building nearby that was at risk of collapse.
Residents from five buildings in Al-Saliheen informed the Directorate of Technical Services in early March that their buildings had new cracks, a source from the directorate told The Syria Report. The body then informed the Public Safety Committee, which inspected the buildings and assessed their technical conditions. The committee concluded that the five buildings, home to 35 families, must be evacuated and subsequently demolished.
The committee then turned to the police branch in Al-Saliheen to evacuate the buildings after some residents refused to leave until alternative housing was secured for them. Police officers evacuated the residents by force without securing alternative housing for them, but allowed the families to retrieve their personal belongings first.
The Public Safety Committee told former residents that the structural cracks in the buildings came from the high level of groundwater after the recent winter rains, and that the buildings had been built in violation of construction codes. This reportedly caused the soil beneath the building foundations to sink, forming cracks and causing some portions of the buildings above ground level to slope downwards.
The five damaged buildings in Al-Saliheen were demolished on March 23 and their rubble removed. However, three additional buildings east of the local cemetery, another building behind the Al-Ibtihaj Pharmacy, two buildings in the neighbouring Karm Al-Dada area, and several other buildings in Masaken Al-Firdous were also demolished. The residents of those additional buildings had been evacuated in accordance with decisions issued by the Public Safety Committee after it determined the buildings to be structurally unsafe.
Several residents in Al-Saliheen told The Syria Report that the frightening cracks had appeared suddenly and that some buildings began tilting noticeably, prompting them to evacuate even before the Public Safety Committee arrived for inspection. Those who left the buildings early were able to move to other houses or stay with relatives, residents said. Others, who had nowhere else to go, waited for the Public Safety Committee in the hopes of receiving alternative housing. That housing was never secured for them.
Al-Saliheen is among east Aleppo’s most densely populated informal neighbourhoods, and is known locally as “Al-Seen Al-Shaabiyeh,” or “The Popular China.” During opposition control of the neighbourhood in 2012-2016, the regime launched heavy airstrikes and artillery fire on Al-Saliheen, especially barrel bombs dropped by helicopters. The bombardment wrought severe damage on urban infrastructure and building foundations. The nearby Al-Firdous and Al-Maadi neighbourhoods saw similar damage. Structural cracks also began to appear on many of the buildings that were not directly hit by the bombs.
Not all residents are convinced of the Public Safety Committee’s explanation for the cause of the new structural cracks. They believe that the cracks were not only attributed to the wealth, but also to ongoing leakage from run-down sewage and drinking water networks, which have not seen proper maintenance since regime forces recaptured the area.
There has been a noticeable increase in the number of buildings displaying such cracks due to previous bombardment on the area, a source from the Aleppo City Council told The Syria Report. The cracks had also appeared on many buildings that the Public Safety Committee allowed property owners to restore in 2017 and 2018. Structural foundations in Aleppo’s eastern neighbourhoods feature severe damage, the source said, adding that it is only a matter of time until new cracks begin appearing on other buildings that, until now, seem otherwise safely habitable.