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10 Dec, 2016 14:26

As thousands flee E. Aleppo, RT hears stories of those trapped there for years (VIDEO)

People who've been trapped in eastern Aleppo for years are now being reunited with their families. Some of them told RT’s Lizzie Phelan why they didn’t flee when the militants took over.

“Only strong men have a good chance of escaping rebel areas. It’s especially difficult for families, when you have kids they don’t allow you to leave,” local resident Ibrahim said. He told RT some families were simply unable to leave their children behind – if you have a boy of a fighting age, the terrorists simply won’t let you take him with you. And fighting age in militant-held Aleppo is just 14.

“Because I have a boy, they wouldn't let him leave with me. That’s why I stayed – because I have a boy. I stayed here for him. Thanks to God, today we were able to leave,” Ibrahim says.

Many of his neighbors say the militants had been trying to drive them away but they had to stay because their children were too small for such a journey.

The rebels would constantly come to our home and steal our belongings, they would fire mortars at us to try to make us leave our homes, so they could come and steal our things, and frighten us because all our neighbors left but we stayed in our home. They would ask why we don’t leave: we told them we have many small children that we can’t leave. We have cows and sheep, we can’t leave them alone, they need to be taken care of, too,” a man called Jawaher explained.

Now, however, these people are finally free and say their biggest joy is to meet their relatives, who live in western districts, after so much time.

I feel like its Eid [holiday], with the power of the Syrian Army we have victory. After five years I am with my family – I am so happy,” says young Salah, holding on to his brother.

READ MORE: Drone footage shows civilians fleeing from militant-held E. Aleppo (VIDEO)

Mohamad has come from western Aleppo to pick up Ibrahim, his brother, who was trapped in Sheikh Sa'eed district.

Four years ago he couldn't escape, but I did. He was stuck there and thank God we are reunited now,” he tells our crew, meeting for the first time his two youngest nephews who were born in eastern Aleppo.

Another man, Mahmoud says he is free now, but he will wait for his brother in law, who was imprisoned by the militants after coming to eastern Aleppo to visit his wife.

They put my sister's husband in jail, they put her husband in jail…because he was living on this side. He went to see his wife, and some people told them that he comes from this side; they caught him and put him in jail.”

For now, all these people are left to deal with what is left of their city after years of fighting. During their retreat, the militants littered the areas they fled with booby traps and mines. These are now being cleared by Russian Army bomb disposal specialists.

In the past 24 hours, they demined a total area of 8 hectares. In addition, 24 buildings have been cleared from explosive objects, including one bakery, two schools, two mosques, one power substation, and some 4.5km of roads,” the Russian Center for Reconciliation said on Saturday.