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Aleppo Twitter Sensation Bana al-Abed Evacuated From Syrian City

by Alexander Smith and Ammar Cheikh Omar /  / Updated  / Source: Reuters
Image: A 7-year-old girl whose tweets from inside Aleppo have gone viral
Bana al-Abed, a 7-year-old girl whose tweets from inside Aleppo have gone viral.Twitter

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The mother of a 7-year-old girl whose tweets chronicled the horrors of life in Aleppo said Monday her emotions are "between sadness and happiness" after finally being evacuated from the besieged city.

Bana al-Abed and her mother, Fatemah, have gained more than 320,000 Twitter followers after posting personal messages, photos and videos documenting their traumatic experiences.

NBC News spoke with 26-year-old Fatemah on Monday after she said her family had spent 18 hours being bused out of the last rebel-held enclave in eastern Aleppo.

"I really have two feelings ... between sadness and happiness," she said in a Skype interview. "I feel that my children in safer place, but we don't know how long we will be safe, and I don't know where we go."

She added that she felt "so sad because I left my soul there, I left Aleppo. Aleppo is my home, Aleppo is everything for me ... I love it and I teach my children to love it, and we stayed there until the last breath."

Fatemah and Bana arrived in Idlib on Monday, along with her 34-year-old husband, Ghassan, and two sons, 5-year-old Mohammed and 3-year-old Noor. They are staying with friends but don't know what their next move will be.

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The family got out of Aleppo as part of an internationally coordinated humanitarian effort to evacuate thousands of people who were trapped there.

For much of Syria's five-year civil war, the city has been divided between rebel and pro-government forces, until a renewed drive by the Syrian regime, backed by Russian airstrikes, in recent weeks.

The campaign has seen much of the city — including schools and hospitals — devastated by the fighting, and unknown thousands of civilians killed.

Fatemah said her family waited for seven hours for a bus to take them out of the city on Sunday. When the bus finally came, she said, hold-ups meant the 40-mile journey took some 18 hours, finally arriving at 7 a.m. on Monday (midnight ET).

"We were held like hostage and like prisoners in our buses, without food, without water ... without warmth," she said.

During the interview, Fatemah pointed the camera toward Bana sleeping on the couch, confirming she had safely left the city.

"She is very sad because she left her home, and school, and her garden — but even they were bombed," she said of her daughter.

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad has called the mother and daughter's Twitter account propaganda promoted by "terrorists" and their supporters. But Fatemah denied this.

"You say what, what you want to say about us, but we are real people," she said. "We showed their war in a civilian [way], and we put it through the picture in our Twitter and we have spoken."

Since the evacuations began last week, some 15,000 people have been taken out of eastern Aleppo, according to Ingy Sedky, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Around 5,000 of these left since Sunday night and as of 9 a.m. ET there were around 75 buses ready to take more civilians out of the city, Sedky added.

Later on Monday, the United Nations Security Council will vote in New York on a resolution to allow U.N. staff to monitor the evacuations, Reuters reported.

The draft resolution was the result of a compromise between Russia and France, and the United States said it was expected to pass unanimously, according to the news agency.

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