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Tuesday, February 7th, 2023

‘This is my last moment to live or die’

The UN says it has reports of Syrian government troops killing civilians ‘on the spot’ in Aleppo.

Lina Shamy is among activists who have posted their final messages amid the disaster in Aleppo.

TERRIFIED Syrians posted emotional goodbyes on social media as the battle over war-torn Aleppo neared its end.

The heartbreaking posts and videos follow months of heavy conflict in the region and days of relentless bombardment in the blocks that remained under rebel that culminated in a ceasefire deal overnight.

But before Russia declared military action over, residents went online to express fears they may not survive the “merciless war”.

“This may be my last video,” a woman tweeting under the name @Linashamy said in a short message posted on Monday.

“More than 50,000 of civilians who rebelled against the dictator, al-Assad, are threatened with field executions or dying under bombing.”

“There is a problem with this planet,” said Monther Etaky, a 28-year old graphic designer.

“This planet doesn’t want people to live as free or to live as humans.”

The world’s view of the Syria conflict has been largely driven by YouTube, Twitter and Facebook — making it one of the world’s most documented wars through amateur videos and coverage.

This has given the activists the biggest role in chronicling the war in detail, and in lobbying for the world’s response. Nearly six years into the conflict, they complained the world has been looking the other way.

“Why is this silence? People are being eliminated,” tweeted Abdulkafi Alhamdo, an English teacher who has been a vocal critic of President Bashar Assad’s government.

Then he wrote: “The last (message). Thanks for Everything. We shared many moments. The last tweets were from an emotional father. Farewell #Aleppo.”

Alhamdo later went live on the videostreaming Periscope to say government troops were approaching.

“This is the last space,” he said. “I hope you can remember us.”

A local aid worker, who gave only his first name, Omar, sent an emotional recorded message that was widely shared on Whatsapp.

“The government forces are at the end of the street. Forgive us,” he said in issuing a tormented apology for failing to protect the rebel enclave, once seen as the jewel of Syria’s rebellion.

Bana Alabed, a seven-year-old girl who has been tweeting from an account managed by her mother, wrote a chilling message declaring it “my last moment to either live or die”.

After four years of holding onto nearly half of what was once Syria’s largest city and commercial centre, thousands of residents of rebel-held Aleppo had been cornered in a one-square-mile sliver of land for days as Syrian government troops, backed by Russia, resisted calls for a ceasefire, pushing into the territory as rebel defences crumbled.

Hospitals were knocked out and civil defence vehicles were bombed. Thousands of residents fled to government areas, but thousands more, likely diehard government opponents, squeezed with the rebels into the ever-shrinking enclave. Etaky said the fast buckling of rebel defences shocked him at first. “But when I turned on my brain and thought about what is happening and the cause of what is happening, I knew,” he said.

After months of a siege imposed since July the rebels had no more power to go on, he said. With their families trapped in the city with them, many fighters left the front lines to tend to their relatives’ safety.

But most importantly, he said, “it was the world silence”.

Speaking to The Associated Press shortly before a ceasefire was announced late Tuesday, Etaky said that as a witness of the gruelling war, he thought he had become numbed by the violence years earlier.

Since moving to the rebel-held sector in 2012, he said he had lost about 50 friends.

“Yesterday when I was saying the last goodbyes, this was the first time I was affected because it was the last time,” he said.

He said he was proud of his role in documenting the war. There was no record, he said, of previous Syrian government crackdowns, including in the 1980s in Hama and Aleppo.

“If my son grows up and just explores the internet he can see his father and what he was documenting, and be proud that his father was a hero,” Etaky said, choking back tears.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says the conflict in Syria is one of the worst humanitarian disasters in years

The ongoing Syrian conflict represents one of the worst humanitarian disasters the world has seen in years, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says. There are reports of mass civilian casualties in the city of Aleppo and humanitarian assistance is desperately required.

“This is one of the worst humanitarian disasters that we have witnessed in many, many years,” she told Sky News on Wednesday.

Ms Bishop said Australia has been calling for a ceasefire and for humanitarian corridors to be set up so civilians can leave and aid get through. The conflict has been beset with claims and counterclaims, which she witnessed first hand during international meetings.

“Russia and the United States must find a way forward to stop the killing and to allow humanitarian relief to be provided to the suffering people of Aleppo,” she told ABC radio.

The minister again reiterated the need for a political solution. “To say that (President) Assad must go, I’m afraid that moment passed a long time ago.” Reports of executions in Aleppo must be investigated, Ms Bishop said.