Date
24 August 2017
Ambulances and buses wait as they evacuate people from a rebel-held sector of eastern Aleppo on Thursday. Photo: Reuters
Ambulances and buses wait as they evacuate people from a rebel-held sector of eastern Aleppo on Thursday. Photo: Reuters

Aleppo residents begin evacuation after ceasefire deal

Thousands of people were evacuated on Thursday from the last rebel bastion in Aleppo, the first to leave under a ceasefire deal that would end years of fighting for the Syrian city.

A first convoy of ambulances and buses with nearly 1,000 people aboard drove out of the rebel-held area, which was besieged and bombarded for months by Syrian government forces, Reuters reports.

It was followed later by two further convoys of 15 buses each.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said late Thursday that some 3,000 civilians and more than 40 wounded people, including children, had been evacuated.

An ICRC official told Reuters that there were no clear plans yet for how to ship out rebel fighters, who under the ceasefire will be allowed to leave for other areas outside government control.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in a video statement that the taking of Aleppo, his biggest prize in more than five years of civil war, was a historic moment.

Staffan de Mistura, the UN special envoy for Syria, said about 50,000 people remained in rebel-held Aleppo, of whom about 10,000 would be evacuated to nearby Idlib province and the rest would move to government-held city districts.

Behind those fleeing was a wasteland of flattened buildings, concrete rubble and bullet-pocked walls, where tens of thousands had lived until recent days under intense bombardment.

The once-flourishing economic center has been pulverized during the war which has killed more than 300,000 people, created the world’s worst refugee crisis and allowed for the rise of Islamic State.

The US was forced to watch from the sidelines as the Syrian government and its allies, including Russia, mounted an assault to pin down the rebels, culminating in this week’s ceasefire.

The civil war in Syria is, however, still far from over, as insurgents retain their rural stronghold of Idlib province to the southwest of Aleppo, and the Islamic State group holds swathes of the east.

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RC

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