The Syrian army and its allies made sweeping advances in Aleppo on Monday (12/12/2016), raining fire on rebels and pushing them to the brink of collapse in a shrinking enclave packed with civilians who said they faced "doomsday in Aleppo".
"The bombardment did not stop for a moment overnight," said a Reuters journalist in the government-held zone of the city, describing it as the most intense for days.
Pro-government forces were clashing with insurgents in Fardous district, which was at the heart of the besieged pocket only days ago, after taking Sheikh Saeed in the south and Saliheen in the east, a rebel official said.
"The situation is extremely difficult today," said Zakaria Malahifji of the Fastaqim rebel group fighting in Aleppo.
The rebels' sudden retreat represented a "big collapse in terrorist morale", a Syrian military source said.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is now close to taking back full control of Aleppo, which was Syria's most populous city before the war and would be his greatest prize so far after nearly six years of conflict.
Rebel groups in Aleppo received a U.S.-Russian proposal on Sunday for a withdrawal of fighters and civilians from the city's opposition areas, but Moscow said no agreement had been reached yet in talks in Geneva to end the crisis peacefully.
"People run from one shelling to another to escape death and just to save their souls... It's doomsday in Aleppo, yes doomsday in Aleppo," said Abu Amer Iqab, a former government employee in the Sukkari district in the heart of the rebel enclave.
The rebel official blamed Russia for the lack of progress in talks, saying it had no incentive to compromise while its ally Assad was gaining ground. "The Russians are being evasive. They are looking at the military situation. Now they are advancing," he said.
While Aleppo's fall would deal a stunning blow to rebels trying to remove Assad from power, he would still be far from restoring control across Syria. Swathes of the country remain in rebel hands, and on Sunday Islamic State retook Palmyra.
Tens of thousands of civilians remain in rebel-held areas, hemmed in by ever-changing front lines, pounded by air strikes and shelling, and without basic supplies, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitoring group.