Assad supporters shout their joy after regime victory in Aleppo

Assad supporters shout their joy after regime victory in Aleppo
Syrians celebrate on December 12, 2016 in the government-held Mogambo neighbourhood of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, after rebel fighters retreated into a small pocket of their former bastion in the face of new army advances.
PHOTO: AFP

Thousands of people in western Aleppo took to the streets Thursday, rejoicing in the Syrian regime's operation to retake the eastern side of their city from rebels after a years-long battle.

Celebratory gunfire began to erupt and crowds began to fill the streets as soon as the army announced the last rebels had left east Aleppo.

The western side of the city had been under the control of President Bashar al-Assad's forces throughout the conflict, and also suffered heavy shelling and loss of life.

"We've been waiting five years for this. We have suffered, what with the rebels, the water shortages and the power cuts," said Rana al-Salem, 29, as tears welled in her eyes and noise rose to a crescendo in the background.

Cars crawled along, their drivers sounding their horns, and in city squares, children had the colours of the Syrian flag painted on their cheeks.

Some carried portraits of Assad or the flags of Syria and Russia, whose air raids against the rebels were a turning point.

"Our joy is immense. Life returned to Aleppo today," said lawyer Omar Halli, who predicted "victory over all of Syria".

Protestors around the world rally for Aleppo where 'thousands' await evacuation

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    Syrians leave a rebel-held area of Aleppo towards the government-held side on December 13, 2016 during an operation by Syrian government forces to retake the embattled city. UN chief Ban Ki-moon expressed alarm over reports of atrocities against civilians Monday, as the battle for Aleppo entered its final phase with Syrian government forces on the verge of retaking rebel-held areas of the city.

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    Syrians leave a rebel-held area of Aleppo towards the government-held side on December 13, 2016 during an operation by Syrian government forces to retake the embattled city. UN chief Ban Ki-moon expressed alarm over reports of atrocities against civilians Monday, as the battle for Aleppo entered its final phase with Syrian government forces on the verge of retaking rebel-held areas of the city.

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    Syrians leave a rebel-held area of Aleppo towards the government-held side on December 13, 2016 during an operation by Syrian government forces to retake the embattled city. UN chief Ban Ki-moon expressed alarm over reports of atrocities against civilians Monday, as the battle for Aleppo entered its final phase with Syrian government forces on the verge of retaking rebel-held areas of the city.

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    Syrians leave a rebel-held area of Aleppo towards the government-held side on December 13, 2016 during an operation by Syrian government forces to retake the embattled city. UN chief Ban Ki-moon expressed alarm over reports of atrocities against civilians Monday, as the battle for Aleppo entered its final phase with Syrian government forces on the verge of retaking rebel-held areas of the city.

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    Syrians leave a rebel-held area of Aleppo towards the government-held side on December 13, 2016 during an operation by Syrian government forces to retake the embattled city. UN chief Ban Ki-moon expressed alarm over reports of atrocities against civilians Monday, as the battle for Aleppo entered its final phase with Syrian government forces on the verge of retaking rebel-held areas of the city.

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    Syrians leave a rebel-held area of Aleppo towards the government-held side on December 13, 2016 during an operation by Syrian government forces to retake the embattled city. UN chief Ban Ki-moon expressed alarm over reports of atrocities against civilians Monday, as the battle for Aleppo entered its final phase with Syrian government forces on the verge of retaking rebel-held areas of the city.

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    Syrians leave a rebel-held area of Aleppo towards the government-held side on December 13, 2016 during an operation by Syrian government forces to retake the embattled city. UN chief Ban Ki-moon expressed alarm over reports of atrocities against civilians Monday, as the battle for Aleppo entered its final phase with Syrian government forces on the verge of retaking rebel-held areas of the city.

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    A man holds a banner as a child lights a candle in front of the Kosovo national theater on December 17, 2016 during a protest in support to Aleppo's population, the latest in a series of demonstrations in Europe over the Syria crisis. Trapped Syrian civilians and fighters waited desperately on December 17 for evacuations to resume from a rebel-held enclave in Aleppo as the Red Cross pleaded for a deal to "save thousands of lives".

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    A child lights a candle in front of the Kosovo national theater on December 17, 2016 during a protest in support to Aleppo's population, the latest in a series of demonstrations in Europe over the Syria crisis. Trapped Syrian civilians and fighters waited desperately on December 17 for evacuations to resume from a rebel-held enclave in Aleppo as the Red Cross pleaded for a deal to "save thousands of lives".

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    Young Kosovars light a lantern in front of the Kosovo national theater on December 17, 2016 during a protest in support to Aleppo's population, the latest in a series of demonstrations in Europe over the Syria crisis. Trapped Syrian civilians and fighters waited desperately on December 17 for evacuations to resume from a rebel-held enclave in Aleppo as the Red Cross pleaded for a deal to "save thousands of lives".

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    Young Kosovars light a lantern in front of the Kosovo national theater on December 17, 2016 during a protest in support to Aleppo's population, the latest in a series of demonstrations in Europe over the Syria crisis. Trapped Syrian civilians and fighters waited desperately on December 17 for evacuations to resume from a rebel-held enclave in Aleppo as the Red Cross pleaded for a deal to "save thousands of lives".

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    Syrians living in Turkey gather for a protest against the Syrian regime along Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul on December 17, 2016. Thousands of trapped civilians and rebels waited desperately for evacuations to resume from the last opposition-held areas of Aleppo after the operation was suspended by the Syrian regime.

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    Syrians living in Turkey protest against Russia, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's regime ally, in front of the Russian Embassy along Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul on December 17, 2016. Trapped Syrian civilians and fighters waited desperately on December 17 for evacuations to resume from a rebel-held enclave in Aleppo as the Red Cross pleaded for a deal to "save thousands of lives".

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    Syrians living in Turkey hold signs during a protest against Russia, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's regime ally, in front of the Russian Embassy along Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul on December 17, 2016. Trapped Syrian civilians and fighters waited desperately on December 17 for evacuations to resume from a rebel-held enclave in Aleppo as the Red Cross pleaded for a deal to "save thousands of lives".

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    Syrians living in Turkey hold signs during a protest against Russia, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's regime ally, in front of the Russian Embassy along Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul on December 17, 2016. Trapped Syrian civilians and fighters waited desperately on December 17 for evacuations to resume from a rebel-held enclave in Aleppo as the Red Cross pleaded for a deal to "save thousands of lives".

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    Syrians living in Turkey hold signs during a protest against Russia, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's regime ally, in front of the Russian Embassy along Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul on December 17, 2016. Trapped Syrian civilians and fighters waited desperately on December 17 for evacuations to resume from a rebel-held enclave in Aleppo as the Red Cross pleaded for a deal to "save thousands of lives".

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    Syrians living in Turkey hold a Syrian flag during a protest against Russia, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's regime ally, in front of the Russian Embassy along Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul on December 17, 2016. Trapped Syrian civilians and fighters waited desperately on December 17 for evacuations to resume from a rebel-held enclave in Aleppo as the Red Cross pleaded for a deal to "save thousands of lives".

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    A Syrian woman living in Turkey stands in front of a Syrian opposition flag during a protest against the Syrian regime along Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul on December 17, 2016. Thousands of trapped civilians and rebels waited desperately for evacuations to resume from the last opposition-held areas of Aleppo after the operation was suspended by the Syrian regime.

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    A woman holds a placard reading "Aleppo is not alone" as Syrians living in Turkey protest against the Syrian regime along Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul on December 17, 2016. Thousands of trapped civilians and rebels waited desperately for evacuations to resume from the last opposition-held areas of Aleppo after the operation was suspended by the Syrian regime.

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    A Syrian man holds a poster of (L-R) Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reading "Imperialist Iran get out of Syria" during a protest against the Syrian regime along Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul on December 17, 2016. Thousands of trapped civilians and rebels waited desperately for evacuations to resume from the last opposition-held areas of Aleppo after the operation was suspended by the Syrian regime.

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    Syrians living in Turkey protest against Russia, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's regime ally, in front of the Russian Embassy along Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul on December 17, 2016. Trapped Syrian civilians and fighters waited desperately on December 17 for evacuations to resume from a rebel-held enclave in Aleppo as the Red Cross pleaded for a deal to "save thousands of lives".

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    A Syrian boy living in Turkey holds a sign during a protest against Russia, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's regime ally, in front of the Russian Embassy along Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul on December 17, 2016. Trapped Syrian civilians and fighters waited desperately on December 17 for evacuations to resume from a rebel-held enclave in Aleppo as the Red Cross pleaded for a deal to "save thousands of lives".

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    Protesters hold placards reading "Aleppo can not be left under bombardment" during a demonstration in Reyhanli in Hatay near the Syrian border on December 17, 2016. Thousands of trapped civilians and rebels waited desperately for evacuations to resume from the last opposition-held areas of Aleppo after the operation was suspended by the Syrian regime.

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    Protesters shout slogans and hold placards reading "Aleppo can not be left under bombardment" in Reyhanli in Hatay near the Syrian border on December 17, 2016. Thousands of trapped civilians and rebels waited desperately for evacuations to resume from the last opposition-held areas of Aleppo after the operation was suspended by the Syrian regime.

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    Protestors wave flags and shout slogans in front of the Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara, on December 16, 2016 during a demonstration to show solidarity with the citizens of Aleppo, the latest in a series of demonstrations in Europe over the Syria crisis. Turkey has provided support to the Syrian opposition and repeatedly called for Assad to go. Protests have been staged in several European cities as the horror in Aleppo has unfolded, with reports of atrocities including summary executions.

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    Protestors wave flags and shout slogans in front of the Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara, on December 16, 2016 during a demonstration to show solidarity with the citizens of Aleppo, the latest in a series of demonstrations in Europe over the Syria crisis. Turkey has provided support to the Syrian opposition and repeatedly called for Assad to go. Protests have been staged in several European cities as the horror in Aleppo has unfolded, with reports of atrocities including summary executions.

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    Protestors wave flags and shout slogans in front of the Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara, on December 16, 2016 during a demonstration to show solidarity with the citizens of Aleppo, the latest in a series of demonstrations in Europe over the Syria crisis. Turkey has provided support to the Syrian opposition and repeatedly called for Assad to go. Protests have been staged in several European cities as the horror in Aleppo has unfolded, with reports of atrocities including summary executions.

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    A participant holds a picture of a man mourning over the body of a boy during a protest of Turkish activists and Syrians living in Istanbul against the latest bombardment of Aleppo by the Syrian regime and its military allies on October 1, 2016 at Istiklal avenue in Istanbul. The recent bombardment of Aleppo has been some of the worst in Syria's five-year civil war, leaving more than 220 people dead and turning residential buildings into heaps of rubble.

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    Participants hold pictures children during a protest of Turkish activists and Syrians living in Istanbul against the latest bombardment of Aleppo by the Syrian regime and its military allies on October 1, 2016 at Istiklal avenue in Istanbul. The recent bombardment of Aleppo has been some of the worst in Syria's five-year civil war, leaving more than 220 people dead and turning residential buildings into heaps of rubble.

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    Syrians who live in Istanbul hold Syrian flags and a picture dated from August 2016 of four-year-old Omran (R) sitting in an ambulance after being rescued from the rubble of a building hit by an air strike in the rebel-held Qaterji neighbourhood of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, during a protest against the latest airstrikes on Aleppo by the Syrian regime and its military allies on October 1, 2016 at Istiklal avenue in Istanbul. The recent bombardment of Aleppo has been some of the worst in Syria's five-year civil war, leaving more than 220 people dead and turning residential buildings into heaps of rubble.

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    Syrians who live in Istanbul hold placards reading 'Stop barrel bombs' and 'More than 200 civilians killed in one week of airstrikes during a protest against the latest bombardment of Aleppo by the Syrian regime and its military allies on October 1, 2016 at Istiklal avenue in Istanbul. The recent bombardment of Aleppo has been some of the worst in Syria's five-year civil war, leaving more than 220 people dead and turning residential buildings into heaps of rubble.

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    People hold signs reading "Bashar out" and "If Bachar doesn't kill... I didn't write on this board" during a protest in support to Aleppo's population on December 17, 2016 in Marseille, southern France, the latest in a series of demonstrations in Europe over the Syria crisis.

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    People hold signs reading "Massacre in Syria, our silence is an accomplice" and "Bachar to the International Criminal Court" during a protest in support to Aleppo's population on December 17, 2016 in Marseille, southern France, the latest in a series of demonstrations in Europe over the Syria crisis.

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    A man holds a sign reading "we are Aleppo" during a protest in support to Aleppo's population on December 17, 2016 in Marseille, southern France, the latest in a series of demonstrations in Europe over the Syria crisis.

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    A child holds a sign reading "we are Aleppo" during a protest in support to Aleppo's population on December 17, 2016 in Marseille, southern France, the latest in a series of demonstrations in Europe over the Syria crisis.

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    A woman holds a sign reading "we are Aleppo" during a protest in support to Aleppo's population on December 17, 2016 in Marseille, southern France, the latest in a series of demonstrations in Europe over the Syria crisis.

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    A man holds a sign reading "Assad, Putin, murderers" during a protest in support to Aleppo's population on December 17, 2016 in Marseille, southern France, the latest in a series of demonstrations in Europe over the Syria crisis.

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    A man holds a sign reading "I am Aleppo" during a protest in support to Aleppo's population on December 17, 2016 in Marseille, southern France, the latest in a series of demonstrations in Europe over the Syria crisis.

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    A man holds a sign reading "Don't forget the culprits" during a protest in support to Aleppo's population on December 17, 2016 in Marseille, southern France, the latest in a series of demonstrations in Europe over the Syria crisis.

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    Syrian nationals living in Malaysia hold placards during a demonstration in solidarity with the inhabitants of the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo, outside the Russian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur on December 16 , 2016. Russia announced it was negotiating with the Syrian opposition and seeking a nationwide ceasefire, as the evacuation of civilians and fighters from the last rebel-held parts of Aleppo entered a second day.

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    Malaysian muslim women carry placards during a demonstration in solidarity with the inhabitants of the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo, outside the Russian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur on December 16 , 2016. Russia announced it was negotiating with the Syrian opposition and seeking a nationwide ceasefire, as the evacuation of civilians and fighters from the last rebel-held parts of Aleppo entered a second day.

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    Malaysian muslim women carry placards during a demonstration in solidarity with the inhabitants of the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo, outside the Russian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur on December 16 , 2016. Russia announced it was negotiating with the Syrian opposition and seeking a nationwide ceasefire, as the evacuation of civilians and fighters from the last rebel-held parts of Aleppo entered a second day.

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    Malaysian muslim women carry placards during a demonstration in solidarity with the inhabitants of the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo, outside the Russian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur on December 16 , 2016. Russia announced it was negotiating with the Syrian opposition and seeking a nationwide ceasefire, as the evacuation of civilians and fighters from the last rebel-held parts of Aleppo entered a second day.

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    Protesters hold pictures of Russian President Vladimir Putin and chant slogans during a sit-in, in solidarity with the people of Aleppo and against Russia's support of the Syrian regime, in front of the Russian embassy in Amman, Jordan, December 13, 2016.

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    Protesters burn a picture of Russian President Vladimir Putin during a sit-in, in solidarity with the people of Aleppo and against Russia's support of the Syrian regime, in front of the Russian embassy in Amman, Jordan, December 13, 2016.

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    A protester holds a picture of Russian President Vladimir Putin during a sit-in, in solidarity with the people of Aleppo and against Russia's support of the Syrian regime, in front of the Russian embassy in Amman, Jordan, December 13, 2016.

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    Protesters burn a picture of Russian President Vladimir Putin during a sit-in, in solidarity with the people of Aleppo and against Russia's support of the Syrian regime, in front of the Russian embassy in Amman, Jordan, December 13, 2016.

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    Protesters from the Jordanian Islamic movement chant slogans during a demonstration in solidarity with the people of Aleppo against the Syrian regime, in Amman, Jordan.

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    Protesters from the Jordanian Islamic movement take part during a demonstration in solidarity with the people of Aleppo against the Syrian regime, in Amman, Jordan.

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    Protesters from the Jordanian Islamic movement hold Syrian opposition flags and chant slogans during a demonstration in solidarity with the people of Aleppo against the Syrian regime, in Amman, Jordan.

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    Protesters from the Jordanian Islamic movement hold Syrian opposition flags and chant slogans during a demonstration in solidarity with the people of Aleppo against the Syrian regime, in Amman, Jordan.

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    An Israeli protester holds a sign during a demonstration to show solidarity with the citizens of Aleppo, Syria, outside the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem December 16, 2016.

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    Israeli protesters hold signs during a demonstration to show solidarity with the citizens of Aleppo, Syria, outside the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem December 16, 2016.

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    Israeli protesters hold signs during a demonstration to show solidarity with the citizens of Aleppo, Syria, outside the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem December 16, 2016.

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    Israeli protesters hold signs during a demonstration to show solidarity with the citizens of Aleppo, Syria, outside the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem December 16, 2016.

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    An Israeli protester lights a candle during a demonstration to show solidarity with the citizens of Aleppo, Syria, outside the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem December 16, 2016.

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    Israeli protesters hold placards during a demonstration to show solidarity with the citizens of Aleppo, Syria, outside the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem December 16, 2016.

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    An Israeli protester holds a sign during a demonstration to show solidarity with the citizens of Aleppo, Syria, outside the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem December 16, 2016.

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    Israeli protesters hold a sign during a demonstration to show solidarity with the citizens of Aleppo, Syria, outside the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem December 16, 2016.

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    Kuwaitis holds placards during a demonstration outside the Russian embassy to condemn Moscow's support for the Syrian regime besieging rebel-held Aleppo on December 14, 2016 in Kuwait City. Carrying banners saying "Stop crimes" and "Save Aleppo," around 2,000 demonstrators marched on the diplomatic compound housing the embassy in Kuwait City. Kuwait's parliament is set to hold a special debate on Aleppo on December 28, speaker Marzouk al-Ghanem said.

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    Kuwaitis holds placards during a demonstration outside the Russian embassy to condemn Moscow's support for the Syrian regime besieging rebel-held Aleppo on December 14, 2016 in Kuwait City. Carrying banners saying "Stop crimes" and "Save Aleppo," around 2,000 demonstrators marched on the diplomatic compound housing the embassy in Kuwait City. Kuwait's parliament is set to hold a special debate on Aleppo on December 28, speaker Marzouk al-Ghanem said.

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    Participants attend a rally in solidarity with the people of Aleppo and against Russia's support of the Syrian army and President Bashar al-Assad, in front of the Russian embassy in Kiev, Ukraine, December 15, 2016.

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    Participants attend a rally in solidarity with the people of Aleppo and against Russia's support of the Syrian army and President Bashar al-Assad, in front of the Russian embassy in Kiev, Ukraine, December 15, 2016.

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    A participant attaches photos during a rally in solidarity with the people of Aleppo and against Russia's support of the Syrian army and President Bashar al-Assad, in front of the Russian embassy in Kiev, Ukraine, December 15, 2016.

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    Young Bosnian women hold baby dolls wrapped in white fabric with stains symbolizing blood, as several thousands of Bosnian protestors gather to raise their voice against the killing in eastern Aleppo, Syria, during a rally in Sarajevo, on December 14, 2016. The seige of Aleppo is brutal but far from unprecedented, with the Bosnian capital Sarajevo and Chechnya's regional capital Grozny previously subjected to devastating bombardments.

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    A young Bosnian man holds-up a comparison photo of Srebrenica 1995 and Aleppo 2016 as several thousands of Bosnian protestors gather to raise their voice against the killing in eastern Aleppo, Syria, during a rally in Sarajevo, on December 14, 2016. The seige of Aleppo is brutal but far from unprecedented, with the Bosnian capital Sarajevo and Chechnya's regional capital Grozny previously subjected to devastating bombardments.

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    A Bosnian woman holds up a cardboard as several thousands of Bosnian protestors gather to raise their voice against the killing in eastern Aleppo, Syria, during a rally in Sarajevo, on December 14, 2016. The seige of Aleppo is brutal but far from unprecedented, with the Bosnian capital Sarajevo and Chechnya's regional capital Grozny previously subjected to devastating bombardments.

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    A Bosnian Muslim woman cries as several thousands of Bosnian protestors gather to raise their voice against the killing in eastern Aleppo, Syria, during a rally in Sarajevo, on December 14, 2016. The seige of Aleppo is brutal but far from unprecedented, with the Bosnian capital Sarajevo and Chechnya's regional capital Grozny previously subjected to devastating bombardments.

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    A child's is held against a placard during a demonstration urging the British government to intervene in the bombing of Aleppo, outside Downing Street, London.

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    A child holds a placard during a demonstration urging the British government to intervene in the bombing of Aleppo, outside Downing Street, London.

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    Stuffed toys are piled up at the gates of Downing street during a demonstration urging the British government to intervene in the bombing of Aleppo, in London.

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    A protester holds a placard during a demonstration urging the British government to intervene in the bombing of Aleppo, outside Downing Street in London.

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    Stuffed toys are piled up at the gates of Downing street during a demonstration urging the British government to intervene in the bombing of Aleppo, in London.

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    Stuffed toys are piled up at the gates of Downing street during a demonstration urging the British government to intervene in the bombing of Aleppo, in London.

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    Actor Carey Mulligan holds a stuffed toy during a demonstration urging the British government to intervene in the bombing of Aleppo, outside Downing Street, London.

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    Protesters hold placards and flags during a demonstration urging the British government to intervene in the bombing of Aleppo, outside Downing Street in London.

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    A child places a stuffed toy at the gates of Downing street during a demonstration urging the British government to intervene in the bombing of Aleppo, in London.

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    A child places a stuffed toy at the gates of Downing street during a demonstration urging the British government to intervene in the bombing of Aleppo, in London.

"God, Syria, Bashar are all we need," "Hey, hey, hey, Aleppo," "With our soul, our blood, we sacrifice ourselves for Syria!," some chanted.

Some took selfies in the middle of the crowd, and others let off fireworks.

"My mother swore that I would only get married in our house, in the Old City," a 26-year-old man who gave his name as Assaad, told AFP.

"I am going to go back to our house and build another floor on it, and I'll be living there after my wedding," he vowed.

Centuries old and studded with historic stone buildings, the Old City became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986.

Read also: Aleppo girl Bana Alabed meets Erdogan at Ankara palace

But in the battle of Aleppo, the quarter was on the frontline, between the rebel-held east and regime-held west. In 2013, the UN agency placed it on its list of cultural heritage that was at risk.

Aleppo, Syria's second city, was an economic powerhouse for the country before the war, and locally-born businessman Aly Akkam predicted it would rise once more.

"Aleppo will bounce back even stronger," Akkam said, adding he planned to return to the Old City where he had a textile shop that he had to abandon.

The loss of east Aleppo is the biggest blow to the rebel movement in Syria's nearly six-year conflict, which has killed more than 310,000 people.

Wednesday's announcement came after a landmark evacuation deal that ended a month-long offensive by government forces and allied militia.

Read also: 25000 evacuated from Syria's Aleppo so far: Red Cross

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