The shaky cellphone video shows Abdulkafi al-Hamdo, an English teacher in Syria, crouching behind a stone wall, the hood of a yellow Adidas sweatshirt pulled over his dark hair. Rain beats down in the background as he speaks into the camera.
Hamdo says he has spent the night in eastern Aleppo fleeing from Syrian government forces, who had all but completed their brutal siege of the city’s last rebel-held neighborhoods Tuesday.
President Bashar al-Assad’s troops are closing in, Hamdo says, fighting back tears, “maybe 300 meters away.”
“No place now to go. It’s the last place,” he says in the video, posted to Twitter just before midnight Monday. “I don’t know really what to say. Words can’t go out now. I hope you can do something to stop the expected massacres.”
He continues: “We wanted freedom. We didn’t want anything else but freedom. You know, this world doesn’t like freedom, it seems.”
As Syrian forces stormed the last sliver of the city controlled by the opposition, Syrians such as Hamdo posted desperate messages to social media, some of them saying they thought they would be captured or killed by government troops.
The Assad regime, backed by air power, has decimated rebel defenses in recent weeks. More than 100,000 people are believed to have fled the fighting, but others have remained, saying they cannot leave, as The Washington Post has reported.
By Tuesday morning, only a few small pockets of rebels were left. Hundreds of people have been reported killed by Assad’s forces, including women and children. The United Nations warned that dozens of people may have been executed by pro-government troops, who killed people “on the spot” in their homes and as they fled.
Bilal Abdul Kareem, an American journalist in Aleppo, was among those who posted video statements from the war zone Monday, calling his recording “perhaps my final message” from the city.
“We may not be able to send any more messages as regime forces push closer and closer,” Abdul Kareem says over the sounds of explosions. “This might be close to if not the last communication.”
In the video, Abdul Kareem blames other Muslim countries for not sending troops to help Syrians.
“You really blew it this time,” he says. “You really had an opportunity to be the hero, fly in here with a cape and help out these poor people.”
Others tweeted what they said may be their final words before being killed or captured.
“I am waiting to die or be captured by the Assad regime,” Ameen al-Halabi, a photographer, wrote on Facebook. “Pray for me and always remember us.”
Some accounts of the violence came from journalists who said they had received final goodbyes from activists and others on the ground.
Rebel forces seized parts of eastern Aleppo in 2012, hoping to establish it as a seat of opposition power. But its fall is now widely viewed as inevitable.
“The battle of Aleppo has reached its end. It is just a matter of a small period of time, no more, no less,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, the director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. “It’s a total collapse.”
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