4,000 peo­ple

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

in­clud­ing rebels and their fam­i­lies would be evac­u­ated un­der the plan, ac­cord­ing to Syr­ian state tele­vi­sion.

Res­i­dents in east­ern Aleppo started to board buses and am­bu­lances as the lon­gawaited pull­out from the last rebel en­clave in the em­bat­tled Syr­ian city got un­der­way on Thursday.

The evac­u­a­tion was part of a cease-fire deal reached this week to have the op­po­si­tion sur­ren­der their last foothold in Aleppo to Syr­ian gov­ern­ment con­trol in the face of a dev­as­tat­ing ground and air of­fen­sive by gov­ern­ment forces in the past weeks that chipped away at the rebel strong­hold. The rebel pull­out will mark the end of the rebels’ four-year con­trol of east­ern Aleppo.

Plans to evac­u­ate on Wednesday were scut­tled when the area erupted in vi­o­lence, raising the haunt­ing pos­si­bil­ity that all-out war could con­sume the city again. Much of east­ern Aleppo has been re­duced to a scene of dev­as­ta­tion and rub­ble.

Ear­lier on Thursday, the In­ter­na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross con­firmed its staff ar­rived to­gether with the Syr­ian Arab Red Cross to evac­u­ate 200 wounded peo­ple from the en­clave, some in crit­i­cal con­di­tion.

Syr­ian state tele­vi­sion re­ported that at least 4,000 rebels and their fam­i­lies would be evac­u­ated un­der the plan.

Syr­ian state TV has broad­cast footage show­ing a con­voy of green-col­ored mu­nic­i­pal buses rum­bling to­ward the agreed-on evac­u­a­tion point in­side the op­po­si­tion-held area. The Rus­sian mil­i­tary said 20 buses and 10 am­bu­lances would take the rebels to the rebel-held ar­eas in the prov­ince of Idlib later on Thursday.

The Rus­sian mil­i­tary said the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment had given se­cu­rity guar­an­tees to all rebels will­ing to leave Aleppo and that the Rus­sians were mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion us­ing drones.

Sep­a­rately but in a key ad­den­dum to the deal Syria state TV said 29 buses and am­bu­lances were head­ing to two Shi­ite vil­lages be­sieged by rebels to evac­u­ate those crit­i­cally ill and other hu­man­i­tar­ian cases. The TV quoted Hama pro­vin­cial gov­er­nor, Mohammed al-Ha­zouri, as say­ing that the med­i­cal teams were head­ing to Foua and Kfraya for those evac­u­a­tions.

The Turkey-Rus­sia bro­kered truce-and-evac­u­a­tions deal for Aleppo was held up on Wednesday over de­mands by Syr­ian gov­ern­ment al­lies to evac­u­ate the sick and other hu­man­i­tar­ian cases from the two vil­lages.

More than 310,000 peo­ple have been killed since the Syr­ian con­flict be­gan, and over half the pop­u­la­tion has been dis­placed, with mil­lions be­com­ing refugees.

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