Deal reached that could restart Aleppo evacuation

Opposition activists blamed the Lebanese group for blocking the main road south of Aleppo and blocking evacuations from rebel-held eastern neighbourhoods of the city.

By: AP | Beirut | Published: December 18, 2016 4:33 am
Syria Aleppo, Aleppo evacuation, Aleppo deal, Syri deal, Human Rights, news, latest news, world news, international news The Syrian army said another 25 buses left later heading to the two villages. It was not immediately clear whether the alleged evacuation limits set by the insurgents in the two villages would undermine evacuation efforts in Aleppo. (AP)

Rebel and government forces agreed on Saturday to allow “humanitarian cases” to leave two besieged government-held Shiite villages in northwestern Syria, a step that would allow the resumption of civilian and rebel evacuations from eastern Aleppo which were suspended a day earlier, Hezbollah’s media arm and a monitoring group said. The opposition’s Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the evacuation of some 4,000 people, including wounded, from the villages of Foua and Kfarya was expected to start on Saturday.

It later reported that 29 buses were heading toward the two villages to start the evacuation process, adding that insurgents in the area rejected allowing 4,000 people to leave and saying they will only allow 400 people to be evacuated. The Syrian army said another 25 buses left later heading to the two villages. It was not immediately clear whether the alleged evacuation limits set by the insurgents in the two villages would undermine evacuation efforts in Aleppo.

Hezbollah fighters have joined the Syrian war fighting along with President Bashar Assad’s forces. Opposition activists blamed the Lebanese group for blocking the main road south of Aleppo and blocking evacuations from rebel-held eastern neighbourhoods of the city. The Aleppo evacuation was suspended after a report of shooting at a crossing point into the enclave by both sides of the conflict.

Thousands were evacuated before the process was suspended. An amateur video posted online by opposition activists on Friday showed scores of men, women and children running away from a crossing point for fear of being shot at. The video appeared genuine and corresponded to other reporting of the events by The Associated Press. The Syrian government has said that the village evacuations and the one in eastern Aleppo must be done simultaneously, but the rebels say there’s no connection.

Hezbollah’s Military Media said the new deal also includes the rebel-held towns of Madaya and Zabadani near the border with Lebanon where tens of thousands of people are trapped under siege by government forces and the Lebanese group. A Syrian state TV correspondent, speaking from Aleppo, said Saturday that the main condition for the Aleppo evacuation to resume is for residents of Foua and Kfarya to be allowed to leave.

In Moscow, The Russian foreign ministry said Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov today called his counterparts in Turkey and Iran to discuss the Syria crisis. The ministry’s read-out said all three discussed the Aleppo evacuation and humanitarian efforts and stressed “the importance of continuing to coordinate efforts of the international community to provide humanitarian aid to those in need.” They agreed to meet soon.

Separately, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu spoke by telephone with his Iranian and Syrian counterparts, as well as the chief of the Turkish intelligence service, to discuss the crisis in Aleppo, including “concrete steps to create conditions for a lasting cease-fire in Syria.”

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