Aleppo evacuation 'to continue until Friday' - Red Cross

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By Alasdair Sandford  with Reuters, AP
Aleppo evacuation 'to continue until Friday' - Red Cross

Despite difficult winter conditions in northern Syria, a stream of vehicles continued to flow out of the rebel enclave of eastern Aleppo on Thursday morning.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says more than 4,000 fighters were moved out overnight to opposition-held areas under an agreement it is overseeing with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.

It expects the operation to continue through until Friday. “The evacuation will continue for the entire day and night and most probably tomorrow (Friday),” said ICRC spokeswoman Karista Armstrong.

She said around 34,000 people had been bussed out in the week-long operation since the rebels agreed to surrender their last territories.

Earlier on Thursday, an opposition spokesman said thousands of rebels and fighters were still waiting to be evacuated – blaming difficulties including bad weather for complicating the final phase of the operation.

Despite more buses and ambulances being sent in earlier to evacuate civilians, the snow and the poor condition of some vehicles appeared to slow down the operation.

The last evacuees are believed to be fighters and their families.

“The numbers of civilians, their cars alongside and of course the weather are all making the evacuation slow,” said Munir al-Sayal, head of the political wing of the rebel group Ahrar al Sham. However he added that if the routine continued without hitches, the operation should be complete by Thursday night.

The exodus from the devastated areas of eastern Aleppo contrast with images from the government-controlled west of the city – where families were seen playing in the snow. Despite the onslaught of winter, everyday life has largely continued.