A family in Aleppo that has become renowned for tweeting from the besieged part of the city has posted a farewell message - saying they "can't be alive anymore" after Syrian government forces took control of their district and reportedly destroyed their home.
The Twitter account, which is under seven-year-old Bana Alabed's name but is managed by her mother, Fatemah, shared a message on Sunday afternoon stating: “Last message - under heavy bombardments now, can't be alive anymore. When we die, keep talking for 200,000 still inside. BYE.”
It came after rebel frontlines in the area collapsed due to heavy air strikes and a lack of hospitals, allowing the Syrian government forces to take control of the Hanano housing district in eastern Aleppo, where the family was living.
After the family posted the tweet, The Independent was able to speak briefly with Fatemah on Monday morning, who said she and her young children were trying to flee the area after losing their home to government bombing.
Fatemah, who studied English at college for three years, told The Independent: "The situation is very bad. We are on the run - no house, no food. Our house has been destroyed. For safety I'm not sharing where we are going.
"Bana is very scared. She's not healthy like before. Very scared."
Fatemah, who has two other young children named Mohamed and Noor, added in the brief exchange that they were struggling to flee because they were "surrounded".
"We can't leave because we are surrounded," she said.
Just prior to posting the farewell tweet, Fatemah had tweeted to say the army had entered the district, and begging the world to pray for them.
“The army got in, this could be our last days sincerely talking. No Internet. Please please please pray for us," she wrote.
Despite the suggestions it would be their “last message”, Fatemah and Bana continued to tweet afterwards, with one post showing a photo of Bana in a dark, apparently smoke-filled setting, along with the words: “Tonight we have no house, it's bombed & I got in rubble. I saw deaths and I almost died. - Bana”
On Monday morning, Fatemah tweeted: “Under heavy bombardments now. In between death and life now, please keep praying for us,” before adding five hours later at around 1pm UK time: "We are on the run as many people killed right now in heavy bombardments. We are fighting for our lives. Still with you."
Bana's world-famous Twitter account was set up in September, two months after President Bashar al-Assad’s forces cut off supply lines into the last rebel-held neighbourhoods in Aleppo, leaving around 250,000 residents in the east of the city - including the Alabed family - trapped under siege conditions.
Bana's first tweet read: “I need peace. I can't go out because of the bombing please stop bombing us, while another stated: “I want to be a teacher but this war is killing my dream stop the bombing. Let me learn English and maths.”
In the 12 days since the renewed bombardment on eastern Aleppo, at least 201 civilians - including 27 children - have died in the sector, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights.
The UN's child agency warned on Sunday that nearly 500,000 children were now living under siege in Syria, cut off from food and medical aid, mostly in areas under government control.
That figure has doubled in less than a year, and many are now spending their days underground, as hospitals, schools and homes remain vulnerable to aerial bombardment.
Unicef executive director Anthony Lake said on Sunday: “Children are being killed and injured, too afraid to go to school or even play, surviving with little food and hardly any medicine. This is no way to live – and too many are dying.”
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