Civilians in this Syrian city are tweeting heart-breaking pictures from the battle zone.

 Heres what happening in Aleppo and why its residents are saying their last goodbyesSaadallah al-Jabiri square, Aleppo in 2012. Photo by Zyzzzzzy via Flickr, Wikimedia Commons
news Syrian civil war Wednesday, December 14, 2016 - 15:43

It has been five years since the Syrian civil war began, emerging out of the 2011 Arab Spring uprising. What began as peaceful protests against the detention and torture of 13 boys who posted graffiti supporting the Arab Spring soon turned into armed conflict between President Bashar al-Assad’s state forces and the rebel forces (defectors from the military who formed the Free Syrian Army).

In the years that have followed, images of death and destruction in the city of Aleppo - once the largest in the country and the heart of its commercial activity – have become commonplace. The battle for Aleppo is one of the many fallouts of the Syrian civil war, and has resulted in millions being displaced and thousands killed.

In the last two days, as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces managed to take out the last of rebel resistance in Aleppo, residents of Aleppo used social media to post their last goodbyes, fearing they may not live to see the next days.

The tweets and posts paint a heart-breaking picture of helpless civilians, looking to leave a trace of their existence on the internet before they become another number in the final casualty count.

Take a look at these posts:

This Twitter user whose bio reads "teacher, activist, and a reporter from inside Aleppo", asks viewers in this video not to believe in the UN or the international community for their failure to act.

A video from Bilal Abdul Kareem, a reporter. You can hear the explosions in the background.

An old man on the streets of Aleppo vehemently screaming that they have no food, no water, nothing. "Our children are being slaughtered. Where are you? Fear Allah!" he shouts.

Bana Alabed, a 7-year-old girl whose verified Twitter account was managed by her mother to tweet about the situation in Aleppo, tweeted that she was surprised she was still alive.

There have been no updates from Bana after the above tweet which was posted on 2.36pm IST on Tuesday.

Lina Shamy, whose Twitter bio reads "To the great Syrian revolution I belong", ends this video with the call, "Save Aleppo, save humanity".

Her latest tweet (at the time of writing this) however, was posted at 2.27pm on Wednesday and said that the shelling was continuing.

This disturbing video shows residents grieving over the bodies of their loved ones, many of whom are children.

The Syrian Civil Defense, a volunteer civil defense NGO, popularly known as the "White Helmets", posted a series of tweets describing the scenario.

The United Nations has called the plight of civilians trapped in the war-torn territory a “complete meltdown of humanity”. On Tuesday, the UN also expressed concern about reports of Syrian forces shooting as many as 82 civilians and said the operation has gone from “siege to slaughter”.

"Aleppo will join the ranks of those events in world history that define modern evil, that stain our conscience decades later - Halabja, Rwanda, Srebrenica and now Aleppo," Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the UN, told Reuters.

However, the Syrian army denied the killings and said that the rebel forces had been using 100,000 people in east Aleppo as human shields, as per the Reuters report.

Aleppo’s residents described ghastly sights following the siege with thousands of bodies lying on the streets. People slept in the streets on Tuesday night while flats were crowded with families desperate to find refuge.

With medicine and rescue services almost non-existent, the survivors of the city are left to fend for themselves until evacuation procedures start, which Reuters reports may be delayed till Thursday.  

However, as per Russian defense ministry numbers, 6,000 civilians as well as 366 fighters had already left rebel-held districts of Aleppo in the last 24 hours.

How it happened

According to Al Jazeera’s trajectory, there are various reasons behind the ongoing war which displaced millions and killed thousands of Syrians – right from global warming to religious antagonism. However, one of the main fallouts of this fighting was the battle for Aleppo which began in 2012, one of Syria’s most prominent cities and its commercial capital.

By June 2013, according to a BBC timeline, the Assad’s forces had initiated Operation Northern Storm, an offensive against the rebel forces in Aleppo. Barrel bombs and aerial assault delivered heavy casualties on Aleppo as well as the rebels. And after two years of deadlock, Assad’s military, backed by Russian forces cut off the rebels’ way to Castello road in July this year.

Castello road was the only route in and out of rebel-held areas of Aleppo. Cutting off access to it essentially meant that no one could get in or out of the eastern side of the city, effectively placing 250,000 people under siege. And while the rebel forces, assisted by al-Qaeda-linked jihadists were able to regain control of a route connecting them to the outside world in August, the government forces reclaimed the area in September.

By November, Assad’s military had occupied over a third of east Aleppo, which was previously held by rebels as well as the northern neighbourhoods. In the continuing advancement, rebels lost over 90% of the territory they had once held in east Aleppo by Monday. By Tuesday, Russia announced that the rebels had agreed to relinquish the last parts of Aleppo they controlled.  

You can see photos of the leftover ruins of the 4,000-year-old, once thriving commercial city in this Dailymail report.