Middle East

Syria war: Thousands uprooted from rebel-held east Aleppo

Syrian families gather in the government-held Jibreen district of Aleppo, after fleeing the rebel-held east of the city. Photo: 27 November 2016 Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption There are many women and children among the civilians fleeing eastern Aleppo

Thousands of civilians have left rebel-held eastern Aleppo districts, as the Syrian army continues its offensive to take full control over the city.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said as many as 10,000 residents fled to government-controlled western areas and a Kurdish-run northern district.

Syrian state media put the number at more than 1,500, while Russia said that 2,500 civilians had left.

The army wants to split the rebel-held east, after seizing several districts.

Government forces have made inroads into Sakhour neighbourhood, and should that fall to President Bashar al-Assad's forces, the government will have split the rebel-held area into two.

While it is very difficult to find out exactly what is happening in besieged eastern Aleppo, several key districts appear to have fallen to the government after a weekend of intense fighting.

Some 250,000 people are believed to remain in eastern Aleppo, where food and medical supplies have all but run out.

The Syrian army's offensive to retake eastern Aleppo is now into its 14th day.

Around 225 civilians, including 27 children, have been killed in the assault so far, the observatory says.

Seven-year-old Bana Alabed, who has gathered thousands of Twitter followers with her tweets from Aleppo, said on Sunday that her home in the east of the city had been bombed.

Image copyright @AlabedBana

Hours earlier, her mother Fatemah tweeted this goodbye message:

"Last message - under heavy bombardments now, can't be alive anymore. When we die, keep talking for 200,000 still inside. BYE.- Fatemah"

Ishmael, a volunteer with the White Helmet civil defence non-governmental organisation in eastern Aleppo, told the BBC that Sunday was "the worst day ever in Aleppo... because of the bombing".

"Today we respond to more than 20 barrel bombs and 20 air strikes," he said.

He said that he feared for his life if he was captured by government forces.

Retaking all of Aleppo would be a major victory for President Assad after five years of conflict.

Once Syria's commercial and industrial hub, Aleppo has been divided roughly in two since 2012, with the government controlling the west and rebels the east.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Pro-government forces walk through Hanano district which fell to them on Saturday

In the past year, Syrian troops have broken the deadlock with the help of Iranian-backed militias and Russian air strikes.

Russia says its air force is active in other parts of the country, but not operating over Aleppo.