“Leaving Aleppo will be the hardest thing I have ever done”
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13:56 (22 minutes ago)
Dispatches from Aleppo: 16th December 2016 A deal to evacuate the remaining civilians trapped in East Aleppo began early this morning. The evacuation went ahead despite reports earlier this morning of pro-regime forces firing on an ambulance carrying wounded civilians out of Aleppo. Five civilians were injured including White Helmet rescue workers Bebars Meshaal and Mohammed Zahra. The first wave of wounded evacuees made it to the western Aleppo countryside where they will be moved to hospitals where they can be treated. 1,000 civilians have been evacuated so far. We have been told that convoys will return and collect more people for a second journey and continue like that. We are happy that they are safer now and hope that safe passage will continue but it is important to remember that the people of East Aleppo have been forced to leave their homes, their lives,their memories, and their beloved city. Civilians were in tears as they gathered to evacuate, many of them afraid they would end up in the hands of regime forces, AFP reported. On the window of one of the buses transporting the evacuees someone had written, "One day we will return". Despite the brutality of siege and non-stop bombardment with every type of weapon imaginable, the medics, rescue workers, parents, and entire communities refused to give up. They rebuilt hospitals time and time again, saved families from under the rubble of non-stop airstrikes, and opened schools and libraries underground. They are the true heroes of our time. On the day evacuations begin, we wanted to share a reflection from Ibrahim, a White Helmet's reflections on why he wants to be the last person to leave.
Image: "We will be back some day" Daily Story: White Helmet volunteer - 'Life in Aleppo is hell and getting worse, but leaving will be harder' This is a message fromIbrahim Abu Laith, 27 year old volunteer with the Syria Civil Defense, published in the Telegraph today. The bombing and shelling restarted on Wednesday morning. It is more intense than ever. All of us are trapped in three neighbourhoods, left waiting for leaders we don’t know and didn’t elect to make decisions about our fate. We have no safe shelters, so civilians are in ordinary buildings or in the streets. It’s freezing and we have no heat. We are living in hell. All the White Helmets’ tools and equipment have been destroyed. We have not been able to perform any rescues today even though civilians are suffering so much. Knowing people need our help and not being able to give it is the hardest thing. My last rescue operation was two days ago. I had a moment of joy when we saved a little baby boy - just 20 days old. We managed to save his mother but his father and three siblings died under the rubble. The baby is not safe yet, he needs medicine but there isn't any. He needs a father but now he has none. When I saw the little baby boy pulled from the rubble I thought of my own son, Laith, who is just 10 months old. We had to flee our home four days ago when the Regime took over. We left everything behind, even Laith’s toys. Now he and my wife are sheltering close to the White Helmets centre. I know I can run to them if the place gets attacked. Laith needs vaccines and food. If I live it will be to look after him. Whatever you see in the headlines, and whatever hell it is in this moment, I love Aleppo. I was born here. I studied here. I first fell in love here. I got married here. I watched my son be born here. Aleppo is the home of our struggle for freedom and dignity, the most just of causes. I want my son to hear about it, I want him to fall in love with it, I want him to know the story of Aleppo as the university of our revolution. I believe what is happening here has never happened anywhere, it is a mix of the best of humanity and the worst. I want to stay, to be the last person to leave Aleppo. As a White Helmet I have seen things that most people can not imagine: burning bodies, children suffering from chemical weapons, weeping mothers. I have lost friends and family members, but leaving Aleppo will be the hardest thing I have ever done. Wherever I end up I will keep being a White Helmet. Syria needs us. I believe in our mission and I believe in saving lives, not taking them. I hope one day my son will also be proud of my story. Given the circumstances, it is very hard to come by data from Aleppo. We will do our best to get you accurate information every day. Katarina and Artino