US journalist Bilal Abdul Kareem 'eating apples' after leaving Aleppo
A US journalist who had been trapped in eastern Aleppo confirmed on Thursday morning that he had left the besieged enclave and made it "home" to rebel-held Idlib province.
In a video posted on Twitter, Bilal Abdul Kareem, a contributor to Middle East Eye, said that he and two colleagues who work for his On The Ground News organisation had left Aleppo and were "eating apples for the first time in months".
Kareem also confirmed he was out in a message sent to MEE.
"We are home, we are out of the besieged territories of Aleppo," said Kareem.
Kareem, who has worked as an independent journalist in northern Syria since 2014, has been trapped in Aleppo for weeks since the start of a Syrian government offensive which cut off the fast-diminishing enclave from other rebel-held territory.
He has worked with media outlets including CNN and the UK's Channel 4 News and his videos from Aleppo have featured prominently in news coverage of the deteriorating humanitarian situation in eastern Aleppo as remaining fighters and civilians endured an assault by pro-Syrian government forces that squeezed them into a few square kilometres of territory.
Last week, Kareem recorded what he said he believed was his "final message" as air strikes pounded the area where he had sought refuge and Syrian government forces closed in.
But a ceasefire agreement, which allowed for fighters and civilians to be evacuated to Idlib in return for the evacuation of two Shia-majority villages besieged in rebel-held territory, has enabled tens of thousands of people to leave over the past week.
In recent days he had chronicled the misery and suffering of those waiting to leave and often stuck on buses for hours in freezing conditions and without food or water as the evacuation operation made halting progress amid distrust on both sides.
He also reported that fighters remaining in Aleppo planned to wear explosive vests when they left because of fears that pro-government forces may not honour the deal allowing them to leave.
In an interview with MEE last week, Kareem said he was looking forward to "sleeping in my own bed and a plate of hot food" when he left Aleppo.
Summing up the main challenges of life under siege, he said simply: "Bombs, no food."
Monitors said on Thursday they hoped the evacuation of Aleppo could be completed by Thursday night, despite bad weather continuing to hamper operations.
About 4,000 fighters are among 34,000 people evacuated from eastern Aleppo in the past week, according to Robert Mardini, the regional head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Hundreds of people had also been escorted out of the Shia-majority villages of Fua and Kafraya, he added.