Sieges have been used throughout the centuries by warring armies to force the surrender of opposing troops entrenched in urban or fortified areas without having to forcibly conquer territory. Some examples of sieges through history:
The Serb siege of Sarajevo went on longer than the 900-day siege of Leningrad in World War II. Sarajevo's 380,000 people were left without food, electricity, water or heating for 46 months, when an average of 330 shells a day smashed into the city. It began on April 6, 1992, when about 40,000 people from all over the country — Muslim Bosniaks, Christian Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats — poured into a square to demand peace from their quarreling nationalist politicians. Serb nationalists fired into the crowd from a nearby hotel, killing five people and igniting the 1992-95 war. The Serb nationalists, helped by neighboring Serbia, laid siege to Sarajevo, and within months had occupied 70 percent of Bosnia, expelling non-Serbs from territory they controlled. A Nov. 21, 1995, peace agreement brokered by the U.S. ended the shooting and the siege.
The siege of Leningrad, now called St. Petersburg, began in September 1941, or three months after Nazi Germany launched Operation Barbarossa against the Soviet Union. About 1 million Soviet civilians and a similar number of soldiers died before the blockade was finally broken on Jan. 27, 1944.
VICKSBURG (May 18-July 4, 1863)
During the American Civil War, Union forces waged a long campaign to conquer Vicksburg, Mississippi, and gain control of the lower Mississippi River. The effort culminated in a concentrated attack that began May 18, 1863, and a siege that started eight days later. Confederate forces surrendered the city on July 4. Vicksburg had 19,233 dead; wounded or missing: 10,142 Union and 9,091 Confederate. Combined with the battle of Gettysburg, fought July 1-3, the two weakened the Confederacy and gave momentum to Union forces.
THE ALAMO (Feb. 23-March 6, 1836)
Built in the 18th century by Spanish missionaries looking to convert the local Native Americans, the Alamo gained its place in history in 1836, when about 200 Texas settlers died trying to defend the fort from Mexican forces. Among the dead: Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and Lt. Col. William Travis, who promised never to surrender or retreat. The battle cry, "Remember the Alamo!" helped inspire Texans to defeat the Mexican army a month later, securing Texas's independence.
The siege of Venetian-ruled Candia, modern day Heraklion, Crete, was one of the longest in history. It began in May 1648 and ended after 21 years with the Venetian surrender.
The siege at Masada took place from 73-74 on a large hilltop overlooking the Dead Sea wedged between what is now Israel and Jordan. As chronicled by historian Josephus Flavius, the Roman legion surrounded Masada and laid a months-long siege to 960 Jewish rebels inside the fortress. The Romans built a ramp to penetrate the fortress, and when they finally did, they found no one left alive. The Jews apparently killed themselves rather than surrender. Masada has become a controversial event in Jewish history, with some regarding it as a place of reverence that commemorates a heroic struggle against oppression and others considering it a warning against extremism and the refusal to compromise.
BATTLE OF CARTHAGE (around 149 B.C.-146 B.C.)
The Battle of Carthage in what is now Tunisia and siege of the city was the main part of the Third Punic war. The Romans laid siege to the city, eventually capturing it and killing thousands. It has been claimed that after conquering the city, the Romans destroyed it and spread salt over it so nothing would grow, but that account has never been backed up by ancient writers.