Syrian Army Poised to Enter Last Rebel Enclave in Aleppo

تم نشره في Tue 20 December / Dec 2016. 01:00 AM
  • A member of forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad stands with a civilian on the rubble of the Carlton Hotel, in the government controlled area of Aleppo, Syria. - (REUTERS)

BEIRUT/MOSCOW —The Syrian army broadcast messages into the last rebel enclave of Aleppo on Tuesday, warning that it was poised to enter the area during the day and urging insurgents to speed up their evacuation of the city.

An operation to evacuate civilians and fighters from rebel-held eastern Aleppo has brought out 37,500 people since late last week and the goal is to complete the process by Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.

But it is hard to know if that goal is realistic, given the problems that have beset the evacuation plan so far, and the wide variation in estimates of how many had left and how many still remained. The International Committee of the Red Cross put the number evacuated since Thursday at only 25,000.

A rebel official in Turkey told Reuters that even after thousands had left on Monday, only about half of the civilians who wanted to leave had done so.

The insurgents would only leave once all the civilians who wanted to go had departed, the rebel said. The ceasefire and evacuation agreement allows them to carry personal weapons but not heavier arms.

Estimates of the number of people waiting for evacuation range from a few thousand to tens of thousands.

The United Nations said Syria had authorized the world body to send 20 more staff to east Aleppo who would monitor the evacuation.

A U.N. official said 750 people had been evacuated from the two besieged government villages of Foua and Kefraya, which government forces had insisted must be included in the deal to bring people out of Aleppo.

The evacuations are part of a ceasefire arrangement that ends four years of fighting in Aleppo, once Syria's most populous city.

Conditions for those being evacuated are grim, with evacuees waiting for convoys of buses in freezing winter temperatures. An aid worker said that some evacuees had reported children had died during the long, cold wait.