The siege of Syria’s second city Aleppo is almost at an end – but the crushing blow dealt to rebel forces is unlikely to bring the country’s devastating civil war to an end.
President Assad’s government forces supported by Russian equipment, special forces and air strikes have battered the rebel positions into submission and taken back half the city that was defiantly out of their control for several years.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been subjected to a daily pounding from artillery, rockets and bombers that has reduced much of the city to rubble.
Only one medical centre is still open, food is short and a lack of fuel has forced many to clamber over the ruins of homes to try to gather broken furniture as fire wood.
And while the might of the Russian military crushed the rebels, the United Nations led by the USA stood by and watched.
Behind the scenes, diplomats have carried on complicated negotiations to end the strife but the Russians and Syrians have refused to ease up the bombardment or advance until they are sure victory is secure.
Now, defeat for the rebels is just a matter of time.
They do not have the numbers of men or fire power to hold off the advancing tanks and well-equipped troops.
The Russian government has hinted a ceasefire may happen, but Assad is determined to crush the rebel forces.
He sees the lifting of the siege and their defeat as a propaganda as well as a military victory, and he has had precious few of either during this war that has displaced and killed millions.
With his resolve and army strengthened by the support offered from Moscow, he is driving on to take back Aleppo.
The rebels will not give up the fight. They fear only death at the hands of Assad awaits them, so they have nothing to lose by battling on.
Strategically, Aleppo is important as Syria’s second city, but the fall of the rebels is unlikely to bring an end to the war any closer.
The opposition still holds great swathes of territory and has men and firepower dug in ready for a long fight.
Assad’s win is a hollow victory. He clings to power but much of the country is rubble and half the population has fled, creating the world’s worst refugee crisis.