AMMAN, Jordan (CNN) — Residents in war-ravaged eastern Aleppo received a dire warning early Sunday: Prepare for the city to be bombarded and evacuate in the next 24 hours.
The warnings came via text message, urging the sick and wounded to flee before a “strategically planned assault using high precision weapons occurs within 24 hours.”
Rebels were also given an ultimatum to put down their arms and renounce their leadership.
Witnesses told CNN that fighter jets have been spotted and there are reports of skirmishes in the Syrian city.
Who is left in Aleppo?
The expected bombardment comes less than a month after Syrian rebels launched their own offensive in an attempt to break the Syrian regime’s siege on opposition-held eastern Aleppo.
The city has seen considerable death and destruction wrought by the civil war.
About 1.5 million people still live in the regime-held parts of Aleppo, while 250,000-275,000 residents are in the devastated rebel-held east, according to the United Nations.
In July, about 200,000 people fled the city — over a two-day span, according to a UN official, citing the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose country is Syria’s most important international sponsor, said his country would impose a 10-hour unilateral humanitarian pause in Aleppo last week.
And Russian air power has been a key factor in helping the Syrian regime solidify its control over the city. But it has come at the cost of hundreds of lives in recent days.
What would make you care about Aleppo?
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad insisted that he has no option but to “to clean” Aleppo and press on with the offensive.
“You have to keep cleaning this area and to push the terrorists to Turkey … to go back to where they come from, or to kill them,” he said.
“It’s going to be the springboard, as a big city, to move to other areas, to liberate other areas from the terrorists. This is the importance of Aleppo now.”