Hundreds leave east Aleppo as evacuations resume


Cii Radio| Ayesha Ismail| 19 December 2016| 19 Rabi ul Awal 1438

More than 1,500 people safely depart east Aleppo, as another 1,000 are evacuated from rebel-besieged Shia villages.

More than 1,000 people have been evacuated from the last rebel-held pocket of Syria’s Aleppo early on Monday after hours of delay, according to a medical official outside the city.

Dr Ahmad Dbis, who heads a team of doctors and volunteers coordinating evacuations, told AFP news agency that around 1,200 people, including women and children, had arrived at the staging ground west of Aleppo.

This was the second convoy to leave east Aleppo in the last 24 hours. Another convoy of five buses, carrying some 350 people, left rebel-held areas shortly before midnight on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said an estimated 500 people had been evacuated from two villages besieged by rebels in Idlib province on Monday.

SOHR, a UK-based monitor, said 10 buses had left the besieged Shia villages of Fouaa and Kefraya carrying evacuees through rebel-held territory towards Aleppo.

The evacuations from rebel-held areas of Aleppo had been suspended on Friday, a day after convoys of people had begun leaving the rebel sector under a deal allowing the regime to take full control of the battleground city.

The main obstacle to a resumption had been a dispute over how many people would be evacuated in parallel from Fouaa and Kefraya, under rebel siege in northwestern Syria.

But just as a deal to go ahead with the evacuations was reached and announced by both sides, gunmen attacked buses sent to take people out of Fouaa and Kefraya and torched them, killing a bus driver, SOHR said.

The evacuation process in Aleppo got off to a shaky start last week, with agreements collapsing and four people reportedly killed by government-allied forces as they attempted to leave eastern Aleppo.

Reports said ambulances and buses were able to enter Fouaa and Kefraya late on Sunday after being prevented from entering for hours.

The SOHR said the evacuation operation would evacuate about 4,000 people, including patients, orphans and families.

‘Sleeping in the streets’
Thousands of people remain in eastern Aleppo, many sleeping in the streets in freezing temperatures as they wait to be evacuated.

“Conditions in eastern Aleppo remain extremely dire,” said Al Jazeera’s Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from Gaziantep on the Turkey-Syria border.

“In the evenings it can go to -5C. They have access to very little food, fuel, water and medical supplies.”
Thousands of people from east Aleppo were taken to rebel-held districts of the countryside west of the city on Thursday.

Turkey has said Aleppo evacuees could also be housed in a camp to be constructed near the Turkish border to the north.

UN monitors
Meanwhile at the United Nations, France and Russia announced agreement on a compromise resolution to deploy UN monitors to eastern Aleppo to ensure safe evacuations and immediate delivery of humanitarian aid.

France’s UN ambassador, Francois Delattre, told reporters the compromise was reached after more than three hours of closed consultations on Sunday and the Security Council would vote on the resolution on Monday.

Russia’s UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, told reporters before consultations that Moscow could not accept the French draft resolution unless it was changed.

He presented council members with a rival text.

After the consultations, Churkin said a “good text” had been formulated.

The US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, said the resolution would quickly put more than 100 UN personnel on the ground to monitor evacuations.

“The text contains all the elements for safe, secure, dignified evacuation, for humanitarian access to those who choose to remain in eastern Aleppo” and for protecting civilians, she said.

She said that following the siege in eastern Aleppo, there have been “many, many reports of people being pulled off buses and disappeared, whether into conscription or into torture chambers or killed outright.”

Deploying UN monitors would deter “some of the worst excesses,” she said.

Russia, which has provided military backing to Assad, has vetoed six Security Council resolutions on Syria since the conflict started in 2011.

China joined Russia in vetoing five resolutions.

Aleppo had been divided between government and rebel areas in the nearly six-year-long war, but a major advance by the Syrian army and its allies began in mid-November following months of intense air strikes.

The offensive forced the opposition fighters out of most of their strongholds within a matter of weeks.

Source – Al Jazeera