The images are haunting. Days after Russia said the four-year battle over Syria's largest city, Aleppo, had ended with the defeat of rebel forces, social media feeds and 24-hour news channel screens were flooded with pictures of civilian casualties and a desperate flood of families fleeing the violence as President Bashar al-Assad declared the "liberation" of the besieged city. On Thursday (Dec. 15), confusion continued over who controlled Aleppo and whether it was safe for residents to leave, even as a fresh wave of refugees tried to flee amid fears of fresh attacks.
The haunting shots of the injured and displaced -- many of them women and children -- and the desperate pleas posted on social media over the past week drew a strong reaction from artists including Madonna, P!nk, Christina Perri, Jessie J and Bette Midler, who urged the U.N. and U.S. to help the war's victims and speak out against the Assad regime.
"Pray for the End to the Genocide in Syria!" Madonna wrote next to a photo of two dust-covered boys clinging to each other in desperation. "100s of thousand's of innocent Children have been dragged into the meaningless Brutality and Violence in Aleppo."
Midler mourned the death of Aleppo, calling Assad a "butcher, monster and optometrist, [who] has murdered hundreds of thousands of his own as we watched."
P!nk wrote "we cannot sit back and watch" and also suggested ways you can help.
Actress Gillian Anderson encouraged people to raise funds to rebuild hospitals in Aleppo, while Khloe Kardashian pointed to other ways to assist.
But for some, it seemed the world had already failed. Mia Farrow quoted an article describing Aleppo’s current battlefield as a ‘complete meltdown of humanity.’
In a press conference about the growing humanitarian crisis and the chaos in Aleppo, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday, "The Assad regime is carrying out nothing short of a massacre [of civilians]. We have witnessed indiscriminate slaughter, not accidents of war, not collateral damage, but frankly purposeful... a cynical policy of terrorizing civilians." Click here to learn about five ways to help the people of Aleppo.