Aleppo evacuation: Orphans among thousands to leave Syria city


Image of Bana Alabed with a Turkish charity worker after leaving Aleppo - 19 December 2016Image copyright
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Bana Alabed, famous for her tweets from Aleppo and pictured here with a Turkish aid worker, was among those who have been safely evacuated

Thousands of people, including dozens of orphans, have left Aleppo in one of the besieged Syrian city’s biggest evacuations yet.

More than 4,500 civilians have left rebel-held parts of eastern Aleppo so far on Monday.

Among them is seven-year-old Bana Alabed, who had tweeted about conditions in the city.

A linked evacuation of government-held parts of Idlib province being besieged by rebels started early on Monday.

While civilians are being moved to safety, the UN Security Council is to discuss sending monitors to oversee the mass evacuations. There are hopes that countries divided on Syria’s fate will come to a rare agreement on the crisis.

The latest from Aleppo

Initial efforts to evacuate the small pockets of eastern Aleppo still held by rebels had collapsed on Friday, leaving civilians stranded without access to food and shelter and with almost no medical facilities.

However, the operation restarted late on Sunday.

Media captionA video of orphans was earlier released by the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) charity

Turkey’s foreign minister said 4,500 civilians had left eastern Aleppo since midnight on Monday, bringing the number of evacuees to 12,000.

A statement by children’s charity Unicef said that 47 children trapped in an orphanage were taken to safety on Monday morning.

Some are in a critical condition because of injuries or dehydration, the organisation said.

The departure of Bana Alabed, whose home in eastern Aleppo was bombed and whose appeals for peace were heard worldwide, was confirmed by a Syrian-American aid organisation early on Monday.

Media captionNurses are forced to perform a Caesarean in place of surgeons in Aleppo

In a video posted on social media, she expressed relief at escaping the “endless bombardment in Aleppo”.

After leaving Aleppo city, the evacuees will be moved to parts of Aleppo and Idlib provinces.

The evacuations from rebel-held villages

The evacuation of civilians from eastern Aleppo was held up partly because of the need for another deal to go ahead.

Media captionBuses travelling to Foah and Kefraya were set on fire on Sunday

Pro-government forces had demanded that people must be allowed to leave the mainly Shia villages of Foah and Kefraya in Idlib province, that are being besieged by rebels.

On Sunday, armed men set fire to buses that were about to transport the sick and injured from the villages.

But Syrian state TV and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, said early on Monday that 10 buses had now left the villages. The Observatory said 500 of the 4,000 villagers had left.

Several reports said the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham jihadist group, linked to al-Qaeda, was responsible for Sunday’s attack.

But Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group fighting alongside Syria’s government, said the buses were caught up in fighting between the jihadists and another Islamist rebel group that supported the evacuations.

The latest diplomatic moves

The UN Security Council is said to have agreed a compromise to allow UN monitoring of the evacuation. It will be discussed at 09:00 (14:00 GMT) in New York.

Russia, an ally of the Syrian government, had rejected a French-drafted plan to send UN officials to eastern Aleppo as “a disaster”, and formulated its own proposal.

Diplomatic efforts to resolve the Syrian conflict have become “paralysed”, the BBC’s Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen says.

While Monday’s talks may provide a consensus on monitors, he says, “because of the size of the crisis in Aleppo, there needs to be a big rethink on all sides about how the world approaches the Syrian war – that is in no way over”.


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