ALEPPO             -          Members of the al-Ali family were walking home from shopping when several shells slammed into the busy street on the western edges of the Syrian city of Aleppo. The blast tore through them, killing 2-year-old Salam and one of her cousins, and incinerated a car nearby with a woman and her infant daughter inside.

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It was one of multiple attacks by rebels firing from Aleppo’s outskirts that killed more than a dozen civilians last month.

Nearly three years have passed since President Bashar Assad’s forces gained full control of Aleppo, sweeping out rebels who had held the eastern half of the city through years of fighting.

That victory made Aleppo — Syria’s largest city — a symbol of how Assad succeeded with crucial assistance from Russia and Iran in turning the tide of the long civil war, clawing back most opposition-held territory in the country’s heartland and ensuring Assad’s survival.

But Aleppo is equally a symbol of how Assad has been unable to secure full victory in the war or bring total security to Syria’s people — and appears unlikely to in the near future.

Half of Aleppo remains destroyed, much of its population is scattered, and deadly attacks like the July 24 mortar fire that killed Salam — whose name means peace in Arabic — are still common. Aleppo still sits on the edge of the opposition’s last major stronghold, a territory stretching across the neighbouring province of Idlib and parts of Hama province. From positions on Aleppo’s outskirts, rebels frequently fire mortars and rockets into the city’s western districts.

Frustrated supporters of Assad call for the army to recapture Idlib or at least push the rebels further west.

“Let it be war,” said Ahmad al-Ali, Salam’s uncle. The girl’s mother was wounded along with three of her cousins. Dry blood stains where the family was hit could still be seen on the pavement days later. Al-Ali said he wasn’t afraid of having a full-fledged battle on his neighbourhood’s doorstep. “Either we all live in peace or — if we die — others will live in peace.”