The rebel stronghold in east Aleppo is foundering as the Syrian Army advances, executing civilians and spraying the city with gunfire and shells.
According to Al Jazeera, government forces are executing civilians purported to be allied with the rebel fighters. The death toll remains unknown, though the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) counts at least 60 fatalities on Monday alone, due to gunfire and shelling.
Meanwhile, the opposition fighters have been forced to retreat from at least six more Aleppo neighborhoods. Syrian state television reports that the army has recaptured 99 percent of the rebel-held territory. Alikbariyah Syria, a pro-government television network, is broadcasting celebration in the streets. According to the footage, people share chocolates and congratulate one another on “the victory.”
“The joy of the people and the army are one,” declares a driver in military fatigues.
But Lieutenant-General Zaid al-Saleh, the head of the Aleppo security committee, had more menacing words when, earlier today, troops recaptured the neighborhood of Sheikh Saeed.
“The battle in east Aleppo should end quickly,” he said. “They [opposition fighters] don’t have much time. They either have to surrender or die.”
Should government forces prevail in Aleppo’s takeover, it would be President Bashar al-Assad’s most significant victory since the war began in 2011.
But “victory” manifests itself differently to civilians confined to the rebel districts. Tens of thousands of Syrians are trapped in a claustrophobic corner of southeast Aleppo as they attempt to survive the bombings. East Aleppo dentist Salim Abu al-Nassar fled to the al-Ansari neighborhood and then posted a video to social media detailing the bleak conditions and begging for a ceasefire.
“Within 8 kilometers square, we have over 80,000 human beings...everyone is piled on top of each other...This area may witness a real massacre if [the army] decides to move here,” he reports.
His message becomes increasingly foreboding.
“This may be my last call,” al-Nassar says. “I hope someone will listen somewhere around the world and relate that to their government so they can stop the shelling, the war, this madness. We hope to live. We love life. I hope we can meet again.”
Architect and social media activist Lina al-Shami has also posted a message to Twitter.
Syrian state television reports that out of eastern Aleppo’s approximately 275,000 residents, 70,000 have fled, most heading to districts occupied by the government. However, many of the men who have escaped from the east have been apprehended and forced to enlist in the military.
The Syrian government has been aided by Russia in this bloody endeavor since November 26, when Russian bombers began targeting medical facilities and both civil defense and municipal vehicles in east Aleppo. In the wake of the explosions, piles of rubble obstructed street access.
Currently, the United States is in talks with Russia in hopes of negotiating a ceasefire. But Russia has just told the U.S. that it wishes to delay the ceasefire for another several days. And until an agreement is reached, Russia will continue its airstrikes, attacking Aleppo civilians from the air as their government pursues them on the ground.