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Voices From East Aleppo: 'They Gave Us 2 Choices Only — Leave Or Die'

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

As we've heard this morning, the battle for Aleppo has reached a new crisis point. Syrian government forces have closed in on the rebel-held part of the city where thousands of civilians have been held under siege. Yesterday, there was word of a cease-fire brokered by Russia and Turkey. Now that cease-fire appears to have fallen apart, and the plans to evacuate residents have stalled. Here's how people inside Aleppo right now are describing the situation.

ABDULKAFI AL-HAMDO: It was hell. It was more than hell - killing. And you can just see bodies on the street. You can hear their voices. They're trying just to find someone to help. They gave us two choices only - leave or die. You leave your friends. You leave your house. You leave your history.

MARTIN: Leave or die. That was Abdulkafi Alhamdo. He's an English teacher who's still in eastern Aleppo with his wife and small daughter. We also spoke with Manther Itaki (ph), an activist still living in the besieged part of the city. He's living there with his wife and 5-month-old son. His parents now live in Turkey, but he chose not to leave. Now the level of violence has increased in recent days. He's reconsidering his options.

MANTHER ITAKI: I didn't leave before because this is my home. This is my place and my first place that I smelled the freedom. And actually there's no way to flee out of the city except through the Assad regime area at this time.

MARTIN: And the problem was activists like Manther didn't trust the regime to let them leave peacefully.

ITAKI: When we decided to stay here, our decision was dying here is preferred to catched by the Assad regime because if we pass through the Assad-regime areas (unintelligible), we'll be catched and we'll be tortured or be killed not in the speed way. We will suffer a lot.

MARTIN: Manther told us he will try to flee the city through another route because he has no other option.

ITAKI: I will try to flee Aleppo but by safe corridor. It's not my choice, but we force it for that because of these war crimes which happen in Aleppo because of the Assad regime.

MARTIN: That was Manther Itaki, one of the residents of eastern Aleppo who have been telling us their story this morning. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.