Aleppo: evacuation suspended as deal breaks down

Aleppo: evacuation suspended as deal breaks down
By Catherine Hardy  with Reuters, WSJ

Evacuations from eastern Aleppo have reportedly been suspended by the Syrian government side. Officials say rebel forces have broken the deal.

Escaping Aleppo does not mean escaping the war

  • Evacuations suspended
  • Day Two of operation was underway
  • 50,000 remain – UN
  • Destinations are government-held areas or Idlib
  • National ceasefire is next step – Putin

The evacuation of civilians and rebel fighters from eastern Aleppo has been reportedly been suspended after claims rebels opened fire on a convoy leaving a rebel-held district.

It is not clear how long the suspension will last.

There are also reports of some evacuees being taken hostage on Syrian state television and Al-Manar Hezbollah TV.

Hezbollah militia are fighting alongside the Syrian government forces.

The second day of the evacuation of civilians from the city was underway.

First convoy

A first convoy of ambulances and buses with nearly 1,000 people on board drove out of the devastated rebel-held area of Aleppo on Thursday, according to reports from the scene.

Syrian state television reported later that two further convoys of 15 buses had also left east Aleppo.

The second had reached the rebel-held area of al-Rashideen, according to reports.

How many have left so far?

The International Committee of the Red Cross said late on Thursday that around 3,000 civilians and more than 40 wounded people, including children, have already been evacuated from those areas of the city.

How many are still there?

It is estimated up to 5,000 are waiting to be brought out immediately.

““We are here to assist the evacuations from east Aleppo. We are working with the Syrian Red Crescent,” said Kerem Kinik, president of the Turkish Red Crescent.

“Our friends are particularly working to transfer the wounded. We made preparations, both in Turkey and Idlib. Hospitals are prepared.”

Staffan de Mistura, the UN special envoy for Syria, says around 50,000 people remain in rebel-held Aleppo.

Around 10,000 will be evacuated to nearby Idlib province.

The rest will move to government-held districts.

“Place them all in Idlib”

Rebel fighters and their families will be taken towards Idlib.

The city, in northwestern Syria, is outside government control, according to the Russian Defence Ministry.

Idlib province, mostly controlled by hardline Islamist groups, is not a favoured destination for fighters and civilians from east Aleppo, where nationalist groups dominated.

The city is already a target for Syrian and Russian air strikes.

However, it is unclear if the government will push for ground assault or simply seek to contain rebels there for now.

Taking sides

By taking control of Aleppo, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has proved the power of his military coalition.

This is backed by Russia’s air force and an array of Shi’ite militias from across the region.

Opposition fighters have been backed by the US, Turkey and Gulf states.

However, that support has fallen far short of the direct military assistance given to Assad by Russia and Iran.

What they are saying

“We are working with the Syrian Red Crescent, particularly in the evacuation of injured people. We have preparations both in Idlib and on the Turkish side. The hospitals are ready,” Kerem Kinik, president of the Turkish Red Crescent.

“Escaping Aleppo does not mean escaping the war..after witnessing the ferocity of attacks on civilians in Aleppo, we are very concerned that the sieges and barrel bombs will follow the thousands who arrive in Idlib,” – the International Rescue Committee.

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