File - A man on a wheelchair flees with others into the remaining rebel-held areas of Aleppo, Syria December 9, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail
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As the bombardment of Aleppo intensified in the days before the collapse of the city's rebel enclave, Mahmoud Issa would try to comfort his terrified children.Thousands of people trapped in eastern Aleppo faced cold, hunger, destitution and an uncertain wait to leave their city as refugees while government forces seized the last rebel pocket, a major prize in the Syrian war.The battle for Aleppo had begun in 2012, a year after the uprising against President Bashar Assad, but it was only this summer that the army and allied Shiite militias backed by Russian air power besieged the rebels' eastern zone."The shells were falling around us at the rate of my breathing," said Modar Shekho, a nurse whose father and brother were both killed by bombs in the last two weeks. He escaped Aleppo last week in a convoy to rejoin his family in the rebel-held countryside outside the city.Six other people from the Bustan al-Qasr quarter said they had been told by people who remain that the bodies of nine members of a family called Ajami had been found in a house.No sooner had they embraced the idea of surrendering, than Russia declared there was no deal.Rebel commanders decided their only option was to fight to the death, the commander of the Jabhat al-Shamiya rebel group said.
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