Thousands of civilians and rebels left Aleppo on Thursday under an evacuation deal that will allow Syria's regime to take full control of the city after years of fighting.
The withdrawal began a month to the day after Syrian government forces launched a major offensive to retake all of Aleppo, and will hand the regime its biggest victory in more than five years of civil war.
In a video message to Syrians, President Bashar al-Assad described the emptying of Aleppo after weeks of brutal strikes a "liberation."
The BBC's Lyse Doucet was in Aleppo last week. From Beirut on Thursday, she told The World what she witnessed in Syria.
"In the driving rain, in the cold winter temperatures, old men hobbling on sticks, children coming in creaky prams, old women carrying the bundles of all the worldly goods that they still have left, leaving their homes — what's left of their homes — behind," Doucet said. "It is such a sad, sad commentary on how the people have suffered so terribly in this war — suffered at the hands of all sides in this war."
"This is very much a moment [the rebel fighters] don't want the world to see," Doucet says. "It is a surrender, and in some ways a very humiliating surrender."
Although it's Assad who is claiming victory in the fall of Aleppo, Doucet says when the rebels first seized territory in July of 2012 in eastern Aleppo, "they believed that the world, that Western powers, the Arab states were behind them."
"In the midst of both the sadness and the celebration there is also profound relief — relief that the sounds of the bombardment, the shelling, the airstrikes will come to an end," Doucet says. "That Aleppo can look to the future."
Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.
There is no paywall on the story you just read because a community of dedicated listeners and readers have contributed to keep the global news you rely on free and accessible for all. Will you join the 314 donors who’ve stepped up to support The World? From now until Dec. 31, your gift will help us unlock a $67,000 match. Donate today to double your impact and keep The World free and accessible.