Aleppo evacuation mission underway, three injured

Updated: Dec 16, 2016, 09:17 IST | Agencies

Forces loyal to govt attack ambulances with evacuees, injure three people


A boy sits inside an ambulance as civilians gather at the rebel-held al-Amiriyah neighbourhood, waiting to be evacuated to the government-controlled Ramoussa on the southern outskirts of the city. Pic/AFP

Aleppo: An operation to evacuate thousands of civilians and fighters from the last rebel bastion in Aleppo was underway on Thursday despite an earlier attack on a medical convoy by pro-government forces.

As buses and ambulances moved into the besieged enclave, the International Committee of the Red Cross said efforts to evacuate around 200 wounded people, part of a wider ceasefire deal, had begun. Russia, a major ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said the evacuation of 5,000 Syrian rebels and their family members from eastern Aleppo had started.

Earlier, ambulances trying to evacuate people came under fire from fighters loyal to the Syrian government, who injured three people, a rescue service spokesman said.

The evacuation of Aleppo's last rebel enclave would end years of fighting for the city and mark a major victory for Assad. "Thousands of people are in need of evacuation, but the first and most urgent thing is wounded, sick and children, including orphans," said Jan Egeland, the UN humanitarian adviser for Syria.

A Reuters witness in the government-controlled part of the city said columns of black smoke could be seen rising from the rebel-held area. Residents hoping to be taken out have been burning personal belongings they cannot take with them and do not want to leave for government forces to loot. "Outside every building, you see a small fire, papers, women's clothes," one resident said.

Russian soldiers were preparing to lead rebels out of Aleppo, the defence ministry in Moscow said. Syria had guaranteed the safety of rebels and their families, who would be taken towards Idlib in northwestern Syria, which is outside government control.

POPCORN
5,000
No. of Syrian rebels being evacuated from eastern Aleppo

200
No. of wounded to be evacuated

BOX
Rebels shelled govt-held Aleppo area: State TV
Syrian state-run Ikhbariya TV reported yesterday that what it called terrorists had shelled a government-held part of Aleppo with rocket fire, citing its own reporter in the city. However, a resident in a rebel-held district next to the area that Ikhbariya said the projectiles had hit said he had not heard the sound of bombardment there. The Syrian government regards all the rebels fighting it as terrorists.

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