An ancient mosque in the Syrian city of Aleppo has been reduced to rubble following weeks of intense fighting.
The once proud Umayyad Mosque of Aleppo, also known as the ‘Great Mosque’ now lies in ruins in the middle of the city.
Several of the walls surrounding the UNESCO-listed building have been destroyed and pro-government fighters have been inspected looking on at the ruins.
The images come as rebel groups have announced a ceasefire in Aleppo and Russia announced that all military action in eastern Aleppo has stopped and the Syrian government is now in control.
Militants in Aleppo said an agreement had been in place with Russia to cease bombardment in the city since this morning.
Meanwhile Syrian forces were accused of ‘massacring 82 civilians in their homes’ during ‘the century’s worst humanitarian tragedy’.
It comes as harrowing photos emerged of dead children amid claims of a new chemical attack in a village in Syria’s Uqayribat district.
The Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations said 93 people were killed and 300 injured in an apparent poison gas attack.
As reports of further atrocities emerged from Aleppo, France’s U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre said ‘the worst humanitarian tragedy of the 21st century is unfolding before our eyes’.
Meanwhile, Aleppo citizens have posted harrowing ‘death bulletins’ pleading for help from the outside word as Syrian government forces sweep through the city.
Terrified residents have filmed themselves describing their plight in the besieged city with one doctor calling the situation ‘apocalyptic’ and another saying: ‘This may be my last video’.
It comes as president Bashar al-Assad’s forces were accused of shooting 82 Aleppo civilians in their homes and as the UN described a ‘complete meltdown of humanity’ in the war-torn city.
There are reports that 11 women and 13 children were among those killed in ‘on the spot’ shootings in the besieged Syrian city while 100 unaccompanied children are feared trapped in a building under heavy attack.
The reports emerged as Syrian troops were poised to recapture all of the country’s war-torn second city. Rights group Amnesty International has described global inaction over the siege as ‘shameful’.
In videos posted online, one citizen, Salah Ashkar, begs for intervention to end the brutal assault on Aleppo, telling the camera: ‘Please, there is no minute to spare. Please, please stand with Aleppo.’
Another man, named as media activist Omar Arab, is interrupted during his video by the sound of gunfire over head.
Activist, Lena Shame, describes being in the ‘middle of a genocide’ before adding: ‘This may be my last video’.
Teacher Abdulkafi Alhamdo added: ‘Many people now are being killed and just kept in the streets and their buildings. No one can help them. No way, no hospitals, no cure.
In another clip, he adds: ‘We did not want anything else but freedom. This world doesn’t like freedom it seems.’
A man called Dr al-Nasr, described the situation as ‘apocalyptic’.
Fears have been growing for thousands of trapped civilians as rebels make a desperate last stand in their remaining pocket of territory in the former opposition stronghold.
The UN human rights office says it has received reports of forces loyal to president Bashar al-Assad killing at least 82 civilians as they entered the last remaining strongholds of the rebels in eastern Aleppo.
Advancing pro-government forces have reportedly entered homes and killed some civilians ‘on the spot’ in the former rebel enclave, according to UN spokesman Rupert Colville.
He said 11 women and 13 children were among those reportedly killed in four neighbourhoods of the increasingly-shrinking rebel enclave in the city of Aleppo.
But the Syrian army has denied carrying out killings or torture among those captured, and its main ally Russia said rebels had ‘kept over 100,000 people as human shields’.
Meanwhile UNICEF Regional Director Geert Cappelaere said in a statement: ‘According to alarming reports from a doctor in the city, many children, possibly more than 100, unaccompanied or separated from their families, are trapped in a building, under heavy attack in east Aleppo.’
UN chief Ban Ki-moon voiced alarm at reports of atrocities against civilians in Aleppo, where entire districts are in ruins and unclaimed bodies lie in the streets.
Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have said the battle for the city is in its ‘final phase’ after they seized more than 90 percent of the eastern districts which had been held by the rebels since 2012.
The turnaround in the government’s fortunes has come through decisive support from its allies Iran and Russia, which has waged a bombing campaign in support of Assad since September last year.
Early on Tuesday, troops were conducting searches in newly recaptured neighbourhoods around Aleppo’s Old City, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
‘The regime is combing the districts of Bustan al-Qasr, Kalasseh, Fardaws, and other neighbourhoods it seized yesterday (Monday),’ Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
He said the regime was consolidating its control over those areas but had not made any fresh advances on Tuesday morning.
The fall of Aleppo would be the rebel’s worst defeat of the civil war and put the government in control of all five of Syria’s main cities.
An AFP correspondent in government-held west Aleppo said bombardment was heard overnight but had quietened by morning, when thick fog shrouded the city.
Residents of the sector gathered in the streets late into the night despite the rain, launching celebratory gunfire in a show of support for the army.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon expressed alarm over reports of atrocities against ‘a large number of civilians, including women and children’ in Aleppo, his spokesman Stephan Dujarric said Monday.
‘While stressing that the United Nations is not able to independently verify these reports, the secretary general is conveying his grave concern to the relevant parties.’
The east of the city had been under army siege almost continuously since July.
On November 15, the army launched a blistering offensive to retake it with the support of Iran-backed militias.
A Syrian military official in Aleppo said late Monday: ‘We’re living the final moments before victory. ‘
Rebel fighters withdrew from six residential districts on Monday after government forces overran the key Sheikh Saeed neighbourhood on the city’s southeastern outskirts.
The pullout leaves the rebels confined to just a handful of neighbourhoods in the southeast of the city, including Mashhad and part of Sukkari.
The International Committee of the Red Cross warned Tuesday that thousands of civilians were at risk ‘as front lines close in around them in eastern Aleppo.’
‘As the battle reaches new peaks and the area is plunged into chaos, thousands with no part in the violence have literally nowhere safe to run.
‘This may be the last chance to save lives,’ it said.
The government assault on east Aleppo has killed at least 415 civilians since mid-November, the Observatory says. Another 130 civilians have been killed by rebel fire on the west.
Diplomatic efforts to end the conflict have repeatedly failed, and weekend talks between Russia and the United States on a ceasefire to allow the evacuation of civilians made no breakthrough.
The White Helmets emergency service, which operates in rebel-held areas across Syria, said it had been unable to pull bodies out from under collapsed buildings because of the ferocity of the bombardment.
‘It’s hell,’ it said on Twitter on Tuesday.
According to the Observatory, an estimated 130,000 people have poured out of rebel-held neighbourhoods as the army has advanced.
In the rebel-held Mashhad neighbourhood, residents fleeing the army advance crowded the streets on Monday, witnesses said.
Displaced civilians – many hungry after fleeing without food – sat on pavements or lay on the street with nowhere else to go.
The government’s lightning advance in Aleppo has not come without cost.
While the army’s firepower has been focused on recapturing it, the Islamic State group has retaken the ancient city of Palmyra from which it was driven out in a high-profile Russian-backed offensive in March.
More than 300,000 people have been killed in nearly six years of civil war. Millions more have fled their homes.
Julian Robinson and Jennifer Newton