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“The End is Near”. “Remember What We Sacrificed”. Dispatches from Eastern Aleppo.

One of the many destroyed neighborhoods of Aleppo. Photo sent by Abdelrazzak Zakzouk to Global Voices.

One of the many destroyed neighborhoods of Aleppo. Photo taken and sent by Abdelrazzak Zakzouk to Global Voices on November 29, 2016.

As forces loyal to the Assad regime make their advances in rebel-held and besieged Eastern Aleppo, human rights groups as well as the UN are sounding the alarm.

At the time of writing, over 50,000 have been displaced by the Syrian regime's advance, according to the UN. Whereas the number of casualties is hard to determine due to the sheer scale of bombings, it is estimated that it is in the hundreds. Hundreds more are being caught by regime forces as they try to flee and at least 500 men have so far been forcibly disappeared.

Others have warned that many of the over than 250,000 civilians trapped in Eastern Aleppo are already facing desperate conditions due to the effects of the siege as well as the continuous targeting of hospitals and other civilian infrastructures by the air forces of the Assad regime and of the Russian government.

Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders reported on November 15, 2016:

Renewed intense conflict through late November in besieged areas near Damascus and Homs has led to significant increases in mass casualty influxes, says Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Multiple airstrikes hit east Ghouta again today; medics in the area are reporting many casualties, including women and children, but the tally of today’s war-wounded and war-dead is not yet complete.

On Friday November 18, 2016, the Eastern Aleppo Health Directorate announced that all remaining hospitals were out of service:

لقد خرجت كل المشافي العاملة بمدينة حلب الحرة عن الخدمة نتيجة القصف الممنهج والمستمر لهذه المشافي خلال اليومين الماضيين من قبل قوات النظام والطيران الروسي. وهذا التدمير المتعمد للبنى التحتية الأساسية للحياة جعل الشعب الصامد والمحاصر بكل أطفاله وشيوخه ورجاله ونسائه بدون أي مرفق صحي  يقدم لهم العلاج وفرص إنقاذ أرواحهم ويتركهم للموت الذي يسعى له النظام ولم ينفك يبحث عن وسيلة للقضاء على شعبنا الصامد.

مديرية صحة محافظة حلب

الدكتور عبد الباسط ابراهيم

All hospitals operating in Free [east] Aleppo are now out of service due to the systematic and continuous bombardment by the regime and Russian air forces over the last two days.

This deliberate targeting of vital infrastructure has left the besieged and tenacious people of Aleppo, children, women, men and elderly, without any facilities providing healthcare or a change to save their lives. They now face death which has all along been the aim of the regime that left no method untried to eliminate our resolute people.

Dr. Abdul-Baset Ibrahim
Aleppo Governorate Health Directorate

The evidence in this statement was confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Saturday November 19, 2016.

The dire situation lead to Jan Egeland of the UN task force on humanitarian access in Syria saying that the UN Security Council has “utterly failed” to protect civilians.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) listed a number of methods used by the Syrian-Russian air force without denying that many children have also been killed by opposition groups using mortars, rockets, or other attacks. Among the methods used by the Syrian regime and Russian government are the infamous ‘double tap’ method which put in practice looks like:

They are killed by Syrian-Russian airstrikes in East Aleppo. We occasionally glimpse the results, like the two young boys filmed in an East Aleppo suburb, grieving after the death of their brother after an airstrike in August. Days later, Syrian aircraft bombed the funeral procession. And then they bombed people who came to the rescue.

‘Double tap’, in other words, means bombing a site, waiting for rescue units to arrive, and then bombing it again. Other methods of killing used by the Syrian and Russian air forces include internationally banned weapons such as cluster bombs and chemical weapons:

They are killed and injured by weapons used in air attacks by the Syrian-Russian coalition. Children have been hurt by cluster bombs, which are banned by the Convention on Cluster Munitions, and by their explosive remnants – like the four-year-old girl, killed when she picked one up thinking it was a toy. Children are victims of chemical weapons, used in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. They suffer incendiary weapons attacks that have started raging fires and cause excruciatingly painful burns.

The regime and Russian government have even dropped leaflets over the city with the following threat:

“This is your last hope….Save yourselves. If you do not leave these areas urgently, you will be annihilated” and they end by saying “You know that everyone has given up on you. They left you alone to face your doom and nobody will give you any help”

One media activist reported that corpses fill the streets, often staying there for long periods of time due to continuous bombings:

Those asking about Aleppo now: corpses of women, children & elderly fill the streets and no one can get near them due to intense bombings

The White Helmets, Syria's Civil Defense Force, have uploaded a video showing one of the most recent massacres by government forces:

Activists inside Eastern Aleppo are having a hard time updating the outside world regularly due to repeated power cuts. One Syrian, a 24-year-old media activist who chose to remain anonymous, told Global Voices:

I won't lie to you. I gave up. I hate myself for it, they [the regime] killed my daughter and several friends of mine, but I can't go on. The end is near.

Another media activist, 23-year-old Abdelrazzak Zakzouk who works as a videographer, was asked by Global Voices if he had a message to activists and to the international community.

He said:

مقيم في حي الأنصاري الشرقي الذي يقع بحلب المحاصرة
وضعي بشكل شخصي جيد حتى الآن
أما الوضع بشكل عام هو سيء جداً ، تعرض الحي للقصف اليوم مثل كل أحياء حلب ، أصبح القصف جزء من نمط حياتنا ، مشاهد الجثث بالشوارع و الأشلاء الناجمة عن الغارات و القصف المدفعي و المروحي الذي يعود مصدره لقوات النظام السوري و حلفاءه أصبحت اعتيادية .
اليوم بظل هذا القصف و الحصار علينا بوجه رسالتي للناشطين السوريين و للمهتمين بالثورة السورية و أطلب منهم إيصال رسالة الإعلام يلي ضحينا من أجلها و مستمرين بالتضحية ، أطلب منهم الحديث للأجانب عن الثورة السورية ، أولاً بحكم وجودهم ضمن المجتمع الغربي و ثانياً بسبب وجود وقت عندهم ليقوموا بذلك ، و أيضاً أطلب من الناشطين السوريين التأكيد ع مبادئ ثورتنا و صمودنا للاستمرار فيها .
للأسف لم يعد لدينا ثقة بالأشخاص المسؤولين ، أو من يسمّون صنّاع القرار ، بعد 6 سنوات من عمر الثورة و التي تضمنت مساعدتهم لنظام بشار الأسد بتقديم مساعدات لضمان بقاءه لم نعد نستطيع حتى توجيه الكلام لهم .
أقل شيء ممكن طلبه من الأمم المتحدة و حكومات العالم مراعات 300 ألف مدني متواجدين في حلب المحاصرة ، لم يعد اهتمامنا الاكل و الشرب رغم الحصار ، أصبح السؤال الذي يراودنا هل سنعود للمنزل لو خرجنا منه ؟ و لو بقينا فيه هل سنبقى أحياء؟ .
الصورة المرفقة قمت بتصويرها اليوم ، بعد سقوط 13 برميل على حي الأنصاري الشرقي – و الذي أسكن فيه – و تزامن سقوط البراميل مع قصف مدفعي على المنطقة

I live in the Eastern Ansari neighborhood, in besieged Aleppo. Personally, I am in good condition so far. However, the situation in general is dire. The neighborhood has been subjected to bombings like all neighborhoods in Aleppo. Bombing has become a part of life. Scenes of corpses on the streets and of body parts caused by the bombings and artillery shelling and airstrikes, by the regime and its allies, have become common.

Today, under the bombings and the siege, I direct my message to the Syrian activists and those concerned with the revolution, and I ask them to send out our message that we have sacrificed for and keep on sacrificing. I ask of them to talk to foreigners about the Syrian revolution, given that many of them live in Western societies with the time to do so. And I also ask of Syrian activists to assert the principles of our revolution and our perseverance so that it can continue.

Unfortunately we don’t trust those in charge, or those so-called decision makers. After 6 years of the revolution, which included their assistance to the regime of Bashar Al Assad by offering support to ensure his stay, we are no longer able to even look them in the eye.

The least we ask of the United Nations and the world governments is not to forget the 300,000 civilians present in besieged Aleppo. Our worry is no longer food and water. In spite of the siege, the main question on our mind is “will we be able to go back to our homes after leaving them?” And “if we remained, will we stay alive?”

I have taken the attached picture [above] today [November 29], after 13 barrels fell on the Eastern Ansari neighborhood, where I live. The barrel bombs were accompanied with artillery shelling on the area.

The tweets of seven year old Bana and her mother Fatemah, an English teacher in Eastern Aleppo, have gone viral. These are some of their tweets from November 27.

Bana was sent ebooks of ‘Harry Potter’ by author JK Rowling a few days prior. Rowling has since endorsed a petition urging the British Parliament to air-drop life saving aid into besieged cities in Syria.

Abdulkafi Alhamdo, a media activist and teacher in Eastern Aleppo, tweeted a short periscope video of him giving an English lesson to his students, stressing that they want to keep on learning despite the siege.

Another media activist, Ahmad Alkhatib, tweeted a photo of a man fleeing with his child:

He also announced that his friend, Anas, who worked as a clown, was killed by the Assad regime:

British-Syrian author and Global Voices contributor Leila Al Shami tweeted:

Meanwhile, many activists outside of Syria have been using social media not just to highlight the suffering on the ground but to remind their followers how the Syrian Revolution started.

American Artist and Writer Molly Crabapple tweeted:

Syrian activist and writer @DarthNader tweeted a series of videos of early protests from 2011 to 2013. Here are some of them:

The reason for this, he explains, is:

Elias Abou Jaoude and Sarmad Al Jilane contributed to this post.

  • Rahman Dauharry

    This is a war not unlike any other. The only difference is the easy means of communication.

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