Aleppo (/; Arabic: ﺣَﻠَﺐ / ALA-LC: Ḥalab, IPA: [ˈħalab]) is a city in Syria, serving as the capital of the Aleppo Governorate, the most populous Syrian governorate. With an official population of 4.6 million in 2010, Aleppo was the largest Syrian city before the Syrian Civil War; however, now Aleppo is probably the second-largest city in Syria after the capital Damascus.
Aleppo is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world; it may have been inhabited since the 6th millennium BC. Excavations at Tell as-Sawda and Tell al-Ansari, just south of the old city of Aleppo, show that the area was occupied by Amorites since at least the latter part of the 3rd millennium BC. This is also when Aleppo is first mentioned in cuneiform tablets unearthed in Ebla and Mesopotamia, in which it is a part of the Amorite state of Yamhad, and is noted for its commercial and military proficiency. Such a long history is attributed to its strategic location as a trading center midway between the Mediterranean Sea and Mesopotamia.
For centuries, Aleppo was the largest city in the Syrian region, and the Ottoman Empire's third-largest after Constantinople and Cairo. The city's significance in history has been its location at one end of the Silk Road, which passed through Central Asia and Mesopotamia. When the Suez Canal was inaugurated in 1869, much trade was diverted to sea and Aleppo began its slow decline. At the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, Aleppo lost its northern hinterland to modern Turkey, as well as the important Baghdad Railway connecting it to Mosul. In the 1940s, it lost its main access to the sea, Antakya and İskenderun, also to Turkey. Finally, the isolation of Syria in the past few decades further exacerbated the situation. This decline may have helped to preserve the old city of Aleppo, its medieval architecture and traditional heritage. It won the title of the "Islamic Capital of Culture 2006", and has had a wave of successful restorations of its historic landmarks. The Battle of Aleppo (2012–2016) occurred in the city during the Syrian Civil War, and many parts of the city suffered massive destruction. Affected parts of the city are currently undergoing reconstruction.
While exact numbers of civilian death toll in Syria during war 2012—2016 were unclear because the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN Human Rights) was restricted to monitor that, United Nations (UN) estimated that thousands of people were killed, for example, UNICEF said that only from 23 to 28 September 2016 at least 96 children of Aleppo were killed, 223 injured. After a strike on Aleppo, on 28 September 2016, Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, called the using of such destructive weapons as war crimes: "This morning, we awoke to reports of strikes on two more hospitals in Aleppo. Let us be clear. Those using ever more destructive weapons know exactly what they are doing. They know they are committing war crimes."
Modern-day English-speakers commonly refer to the city as Aleppo. It was known in antiquity as Khalpe, Khalibon, and to the Greeks and Romans as Beroea (Βέροια). During the Crusades, and again during the French Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon of 1923–1946, the name Alep was used. Aleppo represents the Italianised version of this.
The original ancient name, Halab, has survived as the current Arabic name of the city. It is of obscure origin. However, the term Ḥalab might be derived from (Hebrew: חלב, lit. 'milk') related to a folktale of Abraham, who milked his sheep to feed the poor. Others have proposed that Ḥalab means "iron" or "copper" in Amorite languages, since the area served as a major source of these metals in antiquity. Another possibility is that Ḥalab means 'white', as this is the word for 'white' in Aramaic, the local language which preceded regional Arabization. This may explain how Ḥalab became the Hebrew word for milk or vice versa, as well as offers a possible explanation for the modern-day Arabic nickname of the city, ash-Shahbaa (Arabic: الشهباء), which means "the white-colored mixed with black" and allegedly derives from the white marble found at Aleppo.
Also Abraham is said to have camped on the acropolis which, long before his time, served as the foundation of a fortress where the Aleppo citadel is standing now. He milked his grey cow there, hence Aleppo's name "Halab Al-Shahba".
From the 11th century it was common Rabbinic usage to apply the term "Aram-Zobah" to the area of Aleppo, and many Syrian Jews continue to do so.