Buses en­ter rebel Aleppo to re­sume evac­u­a­tions

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

ALEPPO, Syria: Dozens of buses be­gan en­ter­ing the last rebel-held parts of Aleppo yes­ter­day to re­sume the evac­u­a­tion of thou­sands of in­creas­ingly des­per­ate trapped Syr­ian civil­ians and rebels.

The op­er­a­tion was sus­pended on Fri­day, a day af­ter con­voys of evac­uees had be­gun leav­ing the rebel sec­tor un­der a deal al­low­ing the regime to take full con­trol of the bat­tle­ground city. Buses started en­ter­ing sev­eral dis­tricts on Sun­day un­der the su­per­vi­sion of the Red Cres­cent and the In­ter­na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross (ICRC) “to bring the re­main­ing ter­ror­ists and their fam­i­lies out,” state news agency SANA said, re­fer­ring to the rebels.

A mil­i­tary source con­firmed to AFP that a new evac­u­a­tion deal had been reached. State tele­vi­sion said 100 buses would take peo­ple out of Aleppo. The main ob­sta­cle to a re­sump­tion had been a dis­agree­ment over the num­ber of peo­ple to be evac­u­ated in par­al­lel from two Shi­ite vil­lages, Fuaa and Kafraya, un­der rebel siege in north­west­ern Syria.

A rebel rep­re­sen­ta­tive told AFP that a new agree­ment had been reached un­der which evac­u­a­tions would take place in two phases from Aleppo, Fuaa and Kafraya as well as Zabadani and Ma­daya, two regime-be­sieged rebel towns in Da­m­as­cus prov­ince.

Around two dozen gun­men at­tacked buses sent to evac­u­ate peo­ple from Fuaa and Kafraya, but a se­nior mil­i­tary source said the in­ci­dent should not dis­rupt the Aleppo evac­u­a­tions. An AFP re­porter said they made the driv­ers get out, opened fire on the ve­hi­cles and set fire to the fuel tanks of at least 20 buses.

UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil vote

In New York, the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil was set to meet at 1600 GMT to vote on French pro­pos­als to send mon­i­tors to Aleppo to over­see evac­u­a­tions and re­port on the pro­tec­tion of civil­ians.

The draft text said the coun­cil was “alarmed” by the wors­en­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis and by the fact that “tens of thou­sands of be­sieged Aleppo in­hab­i­tants” are in need of aid and evac­u­a­tion. “Our goal through this res­o­lu­tion is to avoid an­other Sre­brenica in this phase im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing the mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions,” French Am­bas­sador Fran­cois De­lat­tre told AFP, re­fer­ring to a 1995 Bos­nian war mas­sacre.

But the pro­pos­als face re­sis­tance from veto-wield­ing Rus­sia, a key backer of Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad. Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s spe­cial en­voy to Syria made a pre­vi­ously unan­nounced visit to Iran on Sun­day for talks with top of­fi­cials on the Syr­ian con­flict.

Fam­i­lies have been shel­ter­ing dur­ing the night in freez­ing tem­per­a­tures in bombed out apart­ment blocks in Aleppo’s Al-Amiriyah dis­trict, the de­par­ture point for evac­u­a­tions be­fore they were halted.

An AFP cor­re­spon­dent who vis­ited a hospi­tal in the rebel sec­tor saw ap­palling con­di­tions with pa­tients ly­ing on the floor with­out food or wa­ter and al­most no heat­ing.

Abu Omar said that af­ter wait­ing out­side in the cold for nine hours the pre­vi­ous day, he had re­turned on Satur­day only to be told the buses were not com­ing. “There’s no more food or drink­ing wa­ter, and the si­t­u­a­tion is get­ting worse by the day,” he said, adding that his four chil­dren were sick be­cause of the cold.

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