It seemed only a matter of time before Bana Alabed, a 7-year-old tweeting for help from within Aleppo, would be bombed.
Over the weekend, with the fall of most of Eastern Aleppo to government forces, that’s what happened. Her home was destroyed by the Syrian regime. People died all around her. Now she is fleeing for her life, dodging the carnage, and somehow hanging on.
On Sunday, Bana’s mother Fatemah tweeted, “Last message - under heavy bombardments now, can't be alive anymore. When we die, keep talking for 200,000 still inside. BYE.- Fatemah”
Then her daughter followed with this, “Tonight we have no house, it's bombed & I got in rubble. I saw deaths and I almost died. - Bana.” The message included a cloudy photo of Bana and was retweeted 15,000 times.
Message - we are on the run as many people killed right now in heavy bombardments. We are fighting for our lives. still with you.- Fatemah— Bana Alabed (@AlabedBana) November 28, 2016
In Aleppo, as the world increasingly finds out, nothing is safe or sacred: hospitals, churches, schools, children, women, the elderly. Everything is a target. Everything is one fighter jet away from being obliterated.
In this context, it’s miraculous that Alabed has survived the latest bombing, especially since the regime is known for bombing targets repeatedly, and even waiting for aid workers to arrive before additional rounds are unleashed.
Throughout 2016, Alabed developed a large Twitter following, attracting more than 140,000 followers. From within the inferno that is Aleppo, she’s been describing the violence and the mayhem, the complete arrest of civic life and social order, as bombs rain down.
And people have been captivated. Amid the roar of social media, a young girl sending out S.O.Ss seems surreal and nauseating.
Pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee— Bana Alabed (@AlabedBana) November 26, 2016
And Alabed is not alone. A new report from UNICEF shows that more than half a million children live in besieged areas, cut off from aid. Each of these children live in a precarious world, always a sunset away from death.
“Children are being killed and injured, too afraid to go to school or even play, surviving with little food and hardly any medicine,” said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director, in the group’s report. “This is no way to live – and too many are dying.”
Every now and then, a particularly gruesome or sad image jolts the world into empathy — images of the washed-up body of three-year old Alan Kurdi, and the dust- and blood-caked, dazed look of Omran Daqneesh sitting in the back of an ambulance.
“This is no way to live – and too many are dying.” — Anthony Lake, UNICEF
Aleppo has always been a flashpoint of the war, but it has become the epicenter as rebel groups use the Eastern part of the city as one of their last strongholds. The regime is methodically bombing the area and depriving people of resources. It’s a diabolical strategy that has no regard for civilian life: pulverize the landscape and starve people into submission.
Efforts for ceasefires that would halt this catastrophe seem to have been abandoned, especially as US President-Elect Donald Trump approaches inauguration and the global negotiations lose the primary counterweight to Russia, which is a key agent of the destruction.
Somehow, against all these odds, Bana Alabed still tweets, still sticks her neck out there, still hopes that the rest of her life will not be nearly as frightening as these past five years have been.