Aleppo evacuation suspended

Evacuation of civilians and fighters from rebel-held areas suspended after Syrian government claims deal was violated.

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AFP,

Smoke rises in eastern Aleppo
Smoke rises in eastern Aleppo
Reuters

The Syrian government on Friday suspended an operation to evacuate civilians and fighters from the last rebel-held parts of Aleppo, accusing the opposition of violating the deal, a
security source said.

An AFP correspondent heard gunfire and explosions in Ramussa, the government-held neighborhood that evacuees had been passing through, and said buses and ambulances waiting to collect residents had left empty.

"The evacuation operation has been suspended because the militants failed to respect the conditions of the agreement," the security source told AFP.

"The terrorist groups violated the agreement and tried to smuggle heavy weapons and hostages from east Aleppo," state television said.

Robert Mardini, regional head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, confirmed Friday that "regretfully, the operation was put on hold".

"We urge the parties to ensure it can be relaunched and proceed in the right conditions," he said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor of the war, said the suspension was a bid to pressure rebels to allow evacuations from two government-held villages under opposition siege.

"Ahrar al-Sham and other rebel groups have prevented buses and ambulances from entering Fuaa and Kafraya, despite pledging to the Turks that they would let the evacuation go ahead," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.

Abdel Rahman said pro-government fighters were also blocking the route out of the city in a bid to pressure rebels to allow the evacuation of Fuaa and Kafraya.

The two Shiite-majority villages are in Idlib province, which is mostly controlled by rebel groups, and have been under siege since 2015.

Syria's government and its ally Iran reportedly blocked initial implementation of the Aleppo evacuation on Wednesday until a deal to allow the injured and sick to leave the villages was agreed.

The delicate operation to evacuate remaining civilians and fighters from east Aleppo began on Thursday afternoon and continued through the night.

The Observatory said around 8,500 people had left the city, going to rebel-held territory in the west of the province.

The army began an operation to recapture all of Aleppo in mid-November, and had overrun more than 90 percent of the former rebel bastion in the east of the city before the evacuations began.








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