A 7-year-old girl whose tweets from inside the besieged city of Aleppo opened a window into the heinous situation there has been safely evacuated from the city along with her family, activists on the ground have confirmed.
Bana al-Abed, whose Twitter account offered a glimpse into the horrors unfolding on the ground in Syria's largest city, told Syrian journalist Hadi Alabdallah on Monday that she and her mother — who created and monitored the Twitter account — "came out of the rubble safely, thank God."
Bana's mother, Fatemah, created the account to give a face to civilians' suffering, amid the fierce bombing campaign and ground offensive launched by pro-Assad forces that killed nearly 1,000 people before a cease-fire deal was struck last week between Russia and the opposition.
The deal, which called for the evacuation of approximately 40,000 civilians and opposition forces from the city, was suspended Friday amid demands by Iran-backed, pro-government militias to first evacuate wounded civilians from Shiite villages around Aleppo that are being besieged by rebel fighters.
The militias' demands were accommodated and the evacuations resumed on Sunday.
Bana, described by The Washington Post as this era's Anne Frank, was the subject of smear campaigns by online users who claimed that neither she nor her tweets were real. Many wondered how she or her mother had internet access, or why they wrote in English so well. Others claimed they weren't in Syria at all.
In an interview, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad suggested that her Twitter account was a "game" and "propaganda."
But Bana's mother, who manages the account, speaks English — as many Syrians do, since many are required to learn it in primary school — and has studied journalism, the investigative news agency Bellingcat noted last week.
Bellingcat, which uses open-source information to geographically tag tweets and photos, also debunked the theories surrounding Bana's location.
"Examining videos posted on Periscope and Twitter from her roof, including footage in which she is clearly present, we can geolocate them to 36°12′16″N 37°11′09″E. While Bana was tweeting, this block was firmly inside rebel controlled East Aleppo," it said.
As for electricity and internet, Bellingcat said, Bana and her family have access to electricity through solar panels installed on their roof, and WiFi and 3G coverage is still available — albeit sporadically — inside the city.
In any case, Bana told Alabdallah, the Syrian journalist, that before she left Aleppo, "I saw bombing everywhere ... we saw the fighter jets in the sky, too."
"I am sad, really sad, because they're going to take over our land," Bana said, referring to the pro-Assad forces. "And we had to leave Aleppo. Aleppo is my land. My school is there, my home is there. But I have hope that one day I will go back to Aleppo."