Evac­u­a­tions in Aleppo re­sume af­ter hold-up

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BEIRUT: Buses car­ry­ing Syr­ian civil­ians and fight­ers be­gan leav­ing the last rebel-held en­clave of Aleppo yes­ter­day af­ter be­ing stalled for a day, aid of­fi­cials and pro­gov­ern­ment me­dia re­ports said. Ob­sta­cles hin­der­ing evac­u­a­tions from east Aleppo and from two vil­lages be­sieged by rebels out­side the city had been over­come and the op­er­a­tion would be com­pleted within hours, ac­cord­ing to a news ser­vice run by the Le­banese group Hezbol­lah, an ally of the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment.

The even­tual de­par­ture of the thou­sands left in the in­sur­gent zone will hand full con­trol of the city to Pres­i­dent Bashar Al-As­sad, the big­gest prize of Syria’s nearly six-year-old civil war. “Buses are now mov­ing again from east Aleppo. We hope that this con­tin­ues so that peo­ple can be safely evac­u­ated,” a UN of­fi­cial in Syria told Reuters, as snow be­gan to fall on Aleppo. Peo­ple had been wait­ing in freez­ing tem­per­a­tures since the evac­u­a­tion hit prob­lems on Tues­day, with dozens of buses stuck in Aleppo and the evac­u­a­tion of the two Shi­ite vil­lages, Al-Foua and Ke­fraya, also stalled. Rebels and gov­ern­ment forces blamed each other for the hold-up.

Evac­u­a­tion Plan

With ob­struc­tions to the evac­u­a­tion plan ap­par­ently over­come, the Hezbol­lah news ser­vice said 20 buses car­ry­ing fight­ers and their fam­i­lies had moved from east Aleppo yes­ter­day to­wards rebel-held coun­try­side. Syr­ian TV said four buses and two am­bu­lances ar­rived in gov­ern­ment-con­trolled parts of Aleppo from Al-Foua and Ke­fraya. Gov­ern­ment forces had in­sisted the two vil­lages must be in­cluded in the deal to bring peo­ple out of east Aleppo.

So far, about 25,000 peo­ple have been evac­u­ated from Aleppo, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross. A UN of­fi­cial said 750 peo­ple had so far been evac­u­ated from Al-Foua and Ke­fraya. Aleppo’s rebel zone is a waste­land of flat­tened build­ings, con­crete rub­ble and bul­let-pocked walls, where tens of thou­sands lived un­til re­cent days un­der in­tense bom­bard­ment even af­ter med­i­cal and res­cue ser­vices had col­lapsed. Rebel-held parts of the once-flour­ish­ing eco­nomic cen­ter with its renowned an­cient sites have been pul­ver­ized in a war which has killed more than 300,000, cre­ated the world’s worst refugee cri­sis and al­lowed for the rise of Is­lamic State. But in the western part of the city, held through­out the war by the gov­ern­ment, there were big street par­ties on Tues­day night, along with the light­ing of a Christ­mas tree, as res­i­dents cel­e­brated the end of fight­ing.

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