Lying in a hospital bed in northern Syria, Aleppo evacuee Ali Tarab pleads to be quickly taken to neighbouring Turkey for proper treatment for his shattered leg.
“It was one of Bashar’s barrel bombs that did this to us,” Tarab says, referring to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
The elderly man was badly injured in a recent barrel bomb attack in war-ravaged Aleppo, a city that has suffered horrific violence for more than four years, and whose opposition-held areas were being evacuated this week.
Tarab and his two teenage sons -- one of whom is just 14 -- are among thousands of civilians who have been bussed out so far under a fragile deal negotiated by regime backer Russia and Turkey, which supports the rebels.
Pointing to his sons in the beds next to him, Tarab says: “He had his leg ripped off... And look at what happened to me.”
When the attack occurred, Tarab and his boys were out trying to find a cobbler to fix 14-year-old Bilal’s shoes.
“I was standing next to my brother. The bomb fell and I was thrown to the ground, and I lost my hand and my leg,” Bilal told AFP, weeping as he recalled the incident.
The other son described a road littered with the victims of the attack that day.
“There were many bodies on the street, we were not the only ones to be injured,” he said.
Since 2012, Assad’s regime has launched numerous bids to recapture opposition-held areas of Aleppo, resorting to near-daily air strikes and barrel bomb attacks despite UN criticism.
Then last month, Russian-backed government forces stepped up the offensive in a bid to crush the rebellion there once and for all.
Staff at the three-storey hospital in the Syrian border town of Bab al-Hawa, located some four kilometres (2.5 miles) from Turkey, were rushing on Friday to treat the wounded coming out of the deadly Aleppo siege.
But one Syrian doctor at the hospital, which is guarded by armed men, said there was simply not enough medical equipment to treat the wounded.
The Syrian doctor, who declined to give his name, said he hoped that the injured could be referred to better-equipped facilities across the border in Turkey.
Ankara has said that the evacuees in need of treatment will be allowed in.
“They came to my hospital yesterday (Thursday),” said the doctor, as he showed a team of AFP correspondents into a hospital room where a two-year-old girl and her brother were being treated.
The girl had a hand injury, while her brother’s leg was wounded.
The doctor said he needed better equipment in order to be able to operate on the children.
“My hospital doesn’t have any money to treat them,” he said.
The hospital at Bab al-Hawa has received 100 patients -- 30 of them were children -- since the evacuation began on Thursday.
“All of the injured are because of the strikes from aircraft,” he said.
The doctor explained that the flow of patients had stopped arriving Friday after evacuations were suspended, leaving thousands of people trapped and uncertain of their fate.
“Now they stopped coming because of problems in Aleppo,” he said.
Screams of agony
Russia on Friday said the evacuation operation was now “complete” with all women and children moved from the city. Turkey however said it had been suspended but was not yet over.
Appeals came in from around the world for the evacuations to resume, with UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon warning that Aleppo had become “a synonym for hell”.
Some of the civilians who managed to flee Aleppo have been taken to Turkey.
“Since the beginning of the evacuation, over 50 heavily injured (people) have been taken to Turkey,” Kerem Kinik, president of the Turkish Red Crescent, told AFP.
The injured are “all civilians... from besieged Aleppo,” he added.
Many others desperate for proper treatment remain, however.
The UN peace envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said late Thursday he believed around 50,000 people, mostly civilians, were still trapped in the city’s east.
Bulent Yildirim, head of the Turkish Islamic charity IHH, said only a tiny fraction of people trapped in the siege have been evacuated so far, adding that there were not enough buses to ferry people out.
“I believe the evacuation process will take 20 to 25 days,” he said, pledging to keep working round the clock “until the evacuations are finalised.”
The team of AFP journalists visited the Bab al-Hawa hospital as part of a convoy organised by the IHH.
The journalists spent two hours visiting the hospital, where they heard the injured screaming in agony, before being taken back across the Turkish border along the road where heavily injured civilians were being ferried in Syrian ambulances to Turkish territory.