350 evacuated from Aleppo 'in terrible state'

Some 350 people leave rebel-held pocket of eastern Aleppo despite the official postponement of evacuations from the Syrian city.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Site of regime bombing in Aleppo
Site of regime bombing in Aleppo
Reuters

Some 350 people were able to leave a rebel-held pocket of eastern Aleppo on Sunday, a medical official said, despite the official postponement of evacuations of civilians and fighters from the Syrian city.

Dozens of buses had entered Aleppo earlier in the day to resume evacuations, but plans were called off at the last minute after gunmen attacked vehicles for a similar operation from two rebel-besieged villages, reported AFP.

"Five buses carrying the evacuees arrived from besieged parts of east Aleppo," said Ahmad al-Dbis, who heads a team of doctors and volunteers coordinating evacuations to rebel-held Khan al-Assal, from where they can travel on to other parts of Aleppo and Idlib provinces.

"They were in a terrible state," Dbis told AFP.

"They hadn't eaten, they had nothing to drink, the children had caught colds, they were not even able to go to the toilet," he added.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the 350 were able to be evacuated after Russia and Turkey urged the Syrian regime to allow the convoy of buses to pass its final control point.

Evacuations were suspended on Friday, a day after convoys of people had begun leaving the rebel sector under a deal allowing the regime to take full control of the battleground city.

The main obstacle to a resumption had been a dispute over how many people would be evacuated in parallel from two Shiite villages, Fuaa and Kafraya, under rebel siege in northwestern Syria.

But just as a deal to go ahead with the evacuations was found and announced by both sides, gunmen attacked and torched buses sent to take people out of Fuaa and Kafraya, a monitor said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said one bus driver was killed in the attack and that security guarantees would be needed before evacuations could resume.

Yasser al-Youssef of the Nureddin al-Zinki rebel group confirmed that "the evacuations have been momentarily suspended".

Buses would not leave the rebel areas of Aleppo until residents of Fuaa and Kafraya were also able to leave, the Observatory said.

A rebel representative had said that hundreds of people would also be evacuated from Zabadani and Madaya, two regime-besieged rebel towns in Damascus province, as part of the deal.

Syrian state television said earlier Sunday that 100 buses would take people out of east Aleppo.

By early evening, more than 30 buses were packed with people awaiting evacuation, while thousands more stood in the cold for their turn to board other buses.

Aleppo has seen some of the worst violence of the nearly six-year war that has killed more than 310,000 people.

The UN estimated at the end of last week that around 50,000 people, most of them civilians, were still trapped in eastern Aleppo.

Before evacuations were suspended around 8,500 people, including some 3,000 fighters, had left for rebel-held territory elsewhere in the north, said the Observatory.

AFP contributed to this report.



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