The final days of the years-long battle for Aleppo are here. One by one, neighborhoods are falling to the Syrian regime, and those left behind face a variety of gruesome fates: Will they be trapped? Bombed? Or executed by government forces, as reports are suggesting?
The humanitarian crisis is immeasurable, and those inside and out of the city are wondering aloud why the world has seemingly abandoned the thousands of innocent people still caught in Aleppo’s deadly snarl.
But it may not be fair to say that those looking on have always been indifferent. Throughout the struggle, the stories of the war’s smallest victims have captured international attention. For those who couldn’t fathom the suffering there, these were the moments when Aleppo became real.
The boy in the ambulance
In August 2016, photos of a little boy, bloodied and covered in dust on the back of an ambulance, moved people to tears. His name is Omran Daqneesh, and days after the attack that destroyed his home, his 10-year-old brother Ali succumbed to his wounds.
The boy on the beach
One of the first images from the Syrian civil war to go truly viral was that of Alan Kurdi, a toddler who had fled Syria with his family only to die in the Mediterranean along with his brother and mother.
The image of his little body washed up on a Turkish beach became an icon for the brutality and hopelessness facing those caught in the middle of the fighting. Alan and his family were not from Aleppo, but they represented the same suffering that has impacted that city.
The girl with the Twitter account
Seven-year-old Bana Alabed uses a Twitter account run by her mother to communicate with the world outside of her ravaged city. Her messages even attracted the attention of her favorite author, J.K. Rowling. This week, the family’s tweets got even more desperate as regime forces closed in. “My name is Bana, I’m 7 years old,” she tweeted on Tuesday. “This is my last moment to either live or die.”
The grieving brothers
The two boys in this video are survivors of an August 2016 barrel bomb attack. “My brother is gone,” one sobs as they cling to each other. In the same video, a woman weeps over her dead son, his eyes open but unseeing.
The gas attack survivor
In November 2016, the Syria Charity posted a wrenching video of a young gas attack survivor. He cries out for his mother and recounts the moments before he saw yellow smoke and felt hands trying to pull him away to safety. “Will I die, miss? Will I die?” he asks a nurse. She tells him no. Days later, the hospital where he was treated was bombed, but he survived.
The wounded girl
The pure terror on this little girl’s face is hard to take in. She and her family were victims of an airstrike in October 2016, and she can be heard calling out for her father. Her parents and siblings were also wounded in the attack, but they all survived.