PHOTO: A man carries an injured woman on his back through the rubble of eastern Aleppo city
UPDATE 2025 GMT: The White Helmets post an update on today’s attacks and deaths:
— The White Helmets (@SyriaCivilDef) November 29, 2016
UPDATE 1915 GMT: A local source is supporting claims that the Kurdish YPG militia is transferring men above the age of 18 to regime authorities.
Salih Muslim, the head of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Party (PYD) said on Monday that 6,000 to 12,000 civilians had fled into the mainly-Kurdish Sheikh Maqsoud district of eastern Aleppo city. In addition, the YPG took control of two adjacent neighborhoods, al-Halek and Bustan al-Basha, when rebel forces withdrew.
UPDATE 1445 GMT: The White Helmets civil defense organization says Russian-regime airstrikes on the Bab al-Neyrab area of eastern Aleppo city have killed civilians fleeing areas of ground fighting.
The report said 25 people were killed and dozens injured.
Journalist Rami Jarrah posts a copy of one of the leaflets dropped by regime warplanes, warning residents:
This is the last hope….Save yourselves. If you don’t leave these areas quickly you will be annihilated.
We have left passage ways open for your leave.
Quickly make a decision….Save yourselves. You know that everyone has left you alone to face your doom and have offered you no help.
UPDATE 1020 GMT: French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has called for an immediate UN Security Council meeting to discuss the situation in Aleppo.
“More than ever before, we need to urgently put in place means to end the hostilities and to allow humanitarian aid to get through unhindered,” Ayrault said in a statement.
A French diplomatic source said Ayrault and Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier will discuss Aleppo today with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, on the sidelines of a meeting about Ukraine in Minsk.
UPDATE 0850 GMT: The pro-opposition Local Coordination Committees documented 91 deaths on Monday across Syria, including 45 in Aleppo Province.
Most of the deaths in Aleppo were from bombing of the districts of Salhin and Shaar in eastern Aleppo city.
ORIGINAL ENTRY: As a pro-Assad offensive moves into parts of eastern Aleppo city, held by the opposition since July 2012, witnesses are testifying to destruction and fears of the Russian-regime siege, bombing, and ground attacks.
Since Saturday, the pro-Assad offensive — Iranian troops, Hezbollah, Iraqi and Palestinian militia, and Syrian army and paramilitary units, supported by Russian airstrikes — has taken the northern part of eastern Aleppo, about one-third of the territory held by the opposition. The advance follows bombing since mid-September that has killed more than 1,000 people, the destruction of almost all medical facilities, and a siege since late August that has almost exhausted food and vital supplies.
For one month they have been attacking Masakan Hanano [whose fall on Saturday began the pro-Assad advance] with airstrikes and artillery. When the advance happened, there were a lot of rebels outside of the area because the shelling and bombing was so huge last month. The truth is we were shocked at the weakness of the rebels’ defensive positions. They were directly destroyed.
Rebels spoke of foreign fighters leading the advance, with the Syrian army and militia moving afterwards into the districts.
“When the militias advanced there was a mix of Palestinians, Iraqis, Iranian and Hezbollah,” said Najeed, a fighter from Masakan Hanano.
Another fighter, Imad, said:
There were not enough of us to stop the advance of the attack. On the radio we heard their accents, [mainly] Iraqi. I’m sure the people in the advance were from militia but not Syrian army, but then the Syrian army came later and the media came with them.
An estimated 270,000 civilians were in the area. While thousands have reportedly left the area of fighting, the killing of others continues.
Situation is dire in Aleppo now. Civilian bodies are all over the street, also under rubble. Not many can be saved due to constant bombings.
— أبو خالد الشام (@ahlalshami) November 28, 2016
A resident said:
All the people are in the streets. There is no home for them. The airstrikes are everywhere, every minute they are burning Aleppo. There is no road to let the civilians leave. Many people prefer to die than to go to the regime side. They said we will die here, and not go to the regime; we won’t give our women to the regime. We will not give our honor to them either.
Hamza Abduljabbar, a father of three, echoed:
The rebels have failed to break the siege and are losing territory, and the international community has failed to send in supplies or aid. My family and I are surviving day to day here under the barrel bombs and the planes. There’s nowhere else to go.
The White Helmets civil defense service said in a statement that they can no longer reach the dead and wounded in the rubble. They said two of their four centers have been destroyed and that they have no more fuel beyond that left in vehicles.
The statement said that, since November 15, there had been more than 2000 air raids and 7000 shellings of eastern Aleppo.
— The Syria Campaign (@TheSyriaCmpgn) November 29, 2016
Other witnesses spoke of fears that men were being seized by the advancing pro-Assad forces. Mohamed al-Ahmed, who lives in Aleppo’s Old City, said:
We are so scared. We do not know what we will do. I have a cousin living in Masakan Hanano, and the information I have is that they took 400 people yesterday from that area to the airport, including him. We have no information about them.
Another man, who withheld his name, explained: “We were living under opposition control for more than four years and of course many of us became involved with the opposition. Now the army is so close, of course they have information about us.”
A third man, in the Bustan al-Qasr district, said no one could leave and few would dare to exit to regime-held areas even if they could:
My brother and uncle were killed at the checkpoints in early 2013. They will come for us all now. They will speak about reconciliation and fraternity and they will kill without conscience at the same time. And the world will watch on helplessly, just as it has for the past year.
A flashback to a mass rally in Masaken Hanano in 2012:
“No Flour, No Bread, No Medicine”
Meanwhile, those remaining in east Aleppo are facing not only the bombing but also lack of food. Samah al-Ahmad, a mother of four in the al-Ansari area, explained:
There’s no flour, no bread. Most of the bakeries have been destroyed and those that still stand are closed because there aren’t any supplies.
Ahmad says she only leaves her home to scavenge for basics such as sugar and powdered milk: “The latest bombing has been particularly cruel. There is no safe place here any more.”
Her husband, injured in an air strike last month, is bedridden. “I can’t go to the hospital to get medicine because most have been destroyed….Those that still function lack some of the most basic medicines,” she says.
Regime and Kurdish Flags Beside Each Other in Aleppo
Kurdish forces have also benefitted from the pro-Assad offensive, moving into two areas as rebels withdrew.
The Kurdish militia YPG and rebels have long fought in and near the mainly-Kurdish district of Sheikh Maqsoud.
On Monday, the Assad regime flag was raised alongside a Kurdish banner for the first time in Aleppo — the picture is from Bustan al-Basha, which the YPG occupied earlier in the day.
Salih Muslim, the co-chair of the YPG’s political leadership PYD, said 6,000 to 12,000 civilians have fled into Sheikh Maqsoud.
7-Year-Old Bana: “I Don’t Want to Die”
Seven-year-old Bana al-Abed, whose Twitter account — run by her mother Fatemah — has become a prominent first-hand account of the situation in east Aleppo, tweeted on Monday:
We have no home now. I got minor injury. I didn't sleep since yesterday, I am hungry. I want to live, I don't want to die. – Bana #Aleppo
— Bana Alabed (@AlabedBana) November 28, 2016
The al-Abed home was damaged by an airstrike on Sunday. soon after Fatemah al-Abed wrote: “When we die, keep talking for 200,000 still inside. BYE.”
A message in Bana’s name then reported the attack on the family home:
— Bana Alabed (@AlabedBana) November 27, 2016
Reports: Islamic State Abduct 2 Turkish Soldiers
Reports indicate that the Islmaic State kidnapped two Turkish soldiers in northern Syria.
The Turkish military confirmed that it lost contact with two personnel at about 3:30 pm. It said searches are ongoing.
Opposition Coalition: Kurdish Police Kidnapped Member of Our Political Committee
The opposition Syrian National Coalition claims that Kurdish police kidnapped Hawass Khalil, a member of the Coalition’s political committee and of the Kurdish National Council.
A Coalition statement said Khalil was seized in his home in the village of Karki in Hasakah province and taken to an unknown destination. It called for the release of Khalil and all detainees in the prisons of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Party (PYD).
Removal of People Begins from Besieged Khan al-Shih, Southwest of Damascus
Hundreds of people have been removed from the town of Khan al-Shih, southwest of Damascus, in the latest capitulation to siege and bombardment.
Witnesses said 10 buses left the town, where a large Palestinian camp is located, for opposition-held Idlib Province. Under the deal with the regime, about 1,450 rebels and 1,400 relatives are due to depart.
About 12,000 people have been besieged and bombarded for months. After capitulations since August in other towns, Khan al-Shih was the last opposition-held town on a major supply route between Damascus and Quneitra Province in southwest Syria.