Aleppo evacuation: Thousands ‘to be moved’ as new deal reached

Children sit with their baggage during the evacuation, Aleppo, Syria, 15 December 2016Image copyright

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Aid agencies say there is still a high number of civilians – including children – trying to get out

A new deal has been reached to allow the evacuation of several besieged enclaves in Syria, the government and rebels said on Saturday.

Thousands of civilians and rebels are hoping to leave the city of Aleppo after rapid government advances in recent weeks.

The agreement also includes thousands of people in two other rebel-held towns and two towns loyal to the government.

At least 6,000 people have left Aleppo but evacuations were stopped on Friday.

Confusion reigned on Friday morning when the evacuation, which was taking place along corridors out of Aleppo towards rebel-held areas (Khan al-Asal and Khan Touman), was stopped.

The government said rebel fighters had fired on the convoys. Rebels said pro-government forces opened fire.

Media captionWounded evacuees from eastern Aleppo in Syria have been brought to Idlib, south west of the city, for medical help

The United Nations Security Council is expected to vote over the weekend on a French-drafted proposal to ensure the operation is co-ordinated by international observers, with humanitarian aid allowed into Aleppo and hospitals given protection.

Correspondents say thousands of cold and hungry civilians remain stranded in the rebel-held east, waiting to be moved to safety.

US President Barack Obama on Friday accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies Russia and Iran of “atrocities”, saying the world was “united in horror” at the situation.

What does the new agreement involve?

On Saturday various government and rebel sources confirmed that a deal had been reached, which included the following:

  • The continuation of the evacuation of civilians and rebels from eastern Aleppo
  • The evacuation of “humanitarian cases” from the mainly Shia towns of Foah and Kefraya, besieged by rebels, in Idlib province
  • The evacuation of wounded from two government-besieged towns near the Lebanese border – Madaya and Zabadani

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Russian soldiers have helped supervised the evacuation

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Part of the deal is a requirement that rebels ease their siege of Foah and Kefraya

Monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the evacuation from Foah and Kefraya, which are home to some 20,000 people, was expected to start on Saturday.

Syrian state TV, meanwhile, said starting the Idlib evacuations was the main condition for allowing the Aleppo exodus to continue.

Who is still trapped in eastern Aleppo?

The UN’s children’s charity Unicef says sick and wounded children are among the evacuees from east Aleppo, some of whom left without their parents.

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Some injured children are being treated in a field hospital near Idlib

“However, hundreds of other vulnerable children, including orphans, remain trapped inside that part of the city,” it added.

“We are extremely concerned about their fate. If these children are not evacuated urgently, they could die.”

Abdulkafi al-Hamdo, a teacher who is also still in east Aleppo with his young daughter, told the BBC by phone he did not want to leave his home and city but believed he had no choice.

“The weather is so cold,” he said. “Some people have been here since 09:00 yesterday (07:00 GMT on Friday) and the children are so hungry they are crying. They are freezing. Most of them here are scared of a brutal end to the ceasefire.

“They are afraid that they will not be able to get out. This is the feeling of most people here.”

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Evacuees are being taken from east Aleppo to Khan al-Asal and Khan Touman

Aleppo evacuation: Thousands ‘to be moved’ as new deal reached}

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