Bana al-Abed, the Syrian seven-year-old whose Twitter account became a symbol of the siege of Aleppo, has left the city on an evacuation bus and reached the relative safety of the countryside.
Aid workers and local journalists in the west of Aleppo, where Bana arrived early this morning after being stuck in no-man’s land overnight, posted photographs of her smiling.
“Seven-year-old Bana Al-Abed, forced to leave her home after telling world of Aleppo’s suffering, has finally arrived to safety,” wrote Hadi al-Abdullah, a well-known local journalist based outside the city, accompanying a picture of the two of them together.
In the picture, Bana is shown grinning broadly, showing the missing front tooth which was the subject of one of her better-remembered tweets, and wearing a woolly hat. Temperatures are plunging in northwest Syria, and activists had earlier posted photographs of the thousands of civilians waiting for evacuation huddling around open fires in the street.
There had been some panic among activists yesterday when the convoy on which they were travelling — a fact kept hidden from the outside world — was held up in no-man’s land by a regime checkpoint after the evacuation negotiations.
Armed men surrounded the convoy, preventing anyone getting off, until the situation was resolved when buses taking the sick and injured from two Shia towns besieged by rebels south of the city were allowed to leave.
Bana’s mother, Fatemah, told a Syrian exile television station: “We suffered a lot because we had to stay on the bus for 24 hours without water or food or anything, like a prisoner or hostage.”
Bana lived with her parents, a lawyer and a teacher, and two younger brothers, Noor and Mohammed, in rebel-held east Aleppo.
After the Assad regime’s troops and their Iran-backed militia allies managed to enforce a siege on the city, her account began tweeting images and descriptions of life in the city and appeals for help.
Her mother managed the account on her behalf, writing many if not all of the tweets herself. Typical comments would include descriptions of bombs hitting their house, and then a cry for the outside world to do something to stop the carnage.
Already an English-speaker, Fatemah attended a language institute where some of the activists who have made names for themselves by reporting events in the besieged city to the international media taught.
This and Bana’s consequent standard of English, higher than would be expected of a Syrian seven-year-old, led to the account being denounced as “fake” by critics of the rebels and supporters of the regime.
However, several journalists spoke to Fatemah, verifying details of the family’s story. Photographs shown on the account also appeared to be of places identifiable as sites in east Aleppo that had been bombed.
With 65 buses ferrying people out of the city this morning, the total number of civilians evacuated so far has reached 12,000, according to Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Turkish foreign minister. It is estimated that tens of thousands of civilians are still trapped in the city, with food supplies running low.
Several hundred rebel fighters, including from the jihadist group Fatah al-Sham Front, have also left the city.
The United Nations Security Council is due to vote today on a resolution negotiated between France and Russia to allow UN monitors to oversee further stages of the evacuation.