People trapped in city face another night under siege despite government assurances that vehicles were on their waySome of those trapped inside fear the bombing will soon restart, after Russia’s defence ministry said that all civilians had been evacuated and only fighters remained in the city.
“To justify our elimination, even your governments will say we are terrorists. Don’t believe them and be angry for our blood,” teacher and activist Abdulkafi al-Hamdo wrote on Twitter before sharing a picture of his infant daughter playing inside a suitcase. “My daughter is in the bag, do you think she is a radical?” he asked.
People who have already endured months of intense bombardment are on edge, and on Friday an outburst of of gunfire at the main crossing point had scattered a panicked crowd in seconds, Abo Dyab said. “People started to run, like they were mad. They lost their luggage, their money. I heard that more than one person lost their child in the confusion,” he added.
“One woman even left her baby and ran away. Imagine that, the horror of the situation, and the shooting was so close, she left behind her infant baby. After that she went back to look for her daughter, but I don’t know if she found her.”
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It was clear the evacuation effort had collapsed so they trudged back to the apartment where they were staying, 10 hours after they had left. The place was offered by a friend after their own home came under government control a few days earlier, and although they are grateful for the kindness, they have no heating and little to eat.
“We are lying under blankets and praying for rescue,” he said. “I wish God would get us out of this horrible situation, people here want to die a hundred times a day.”
The slow pace of evacuation on buses is another fear for those in the city. With so many wanting to leave, there are fears the processing could take longer than any ceasefire deal can hold. In the first hours of the ceasefire some people were reportedly allowed to leave in private cars, but this has now been stopped. “I am very worried that my family and I won’t be able to get out, it is a miserable situation,” said 21-year-old aid worker Abo Yazan, who asked for a pseudonym to be used. “Some friends got out, they managed to leave early because their car was working. It took a while to get our cars going.”
He tried to leave with his wife, baby son and a group of other relatives and friends who crammed into two cars. One refused to start, and by the time they had rigged up a make-shift tow rope to drag the stricken car to the crossing point, they were too late.
“When we got there they said no private cars were allowed, we had to take the buses. So we took the cars away, went to get the buses, then they told us there is no chance of leaving at all.”
Even if they do get onto the buses, most people evacuating from the city will do it with a heavy heart. Defeat for rebel factions there has been crushing, and Assad is known for pursuing and punishing opponents, so they are unlikely to be able to return.
The slow bus journey through its ruined streets may be the last glimpse they have of their hometown. “Leaving Aleppo is terrible, I feel I am never going to be able to return to this city,” said Abo Yazan. “Humanity has lost the battle.”