Damascus: A new deal has been reached to complete the evacuation of rebel-held areas of Syria’s east Aleppo which ground to a halt on Friday over demands from pro-government forces that people also be moved out of two villages besieged by rebels.
Syrian rebel official al-Farouk Abu Bakr, speaking from Aleppo to news channel al-Arabiya al-Hadath on Saturday, said the deal comprised an evacuation from the two Shia villages besieged by insurgents, the evacuation of wounded people from two towns besieged by pro-government forces near the Lebanese border, and the full evacuation of rebel-held east Aleppo.
A Syrian government official also said the stalled evacuation of Aleppo would resume, alongside some evacuations from the four besieged towns and villages. “It was agreed to resume evacuations from east Aleppo in parallel with the evacuation of [medical] cases from Kefraya and al-Foua and some cases from Zabadani and Madaya,” said the government official, part of the evacuations negotiating team.
The Shia villages of al-Foua and Kefraya in Idlib province are besieged by insurgents. The towns of Madaya and Zabadani are blockaded by pro-government forces.
The operation to evacuate fighters and civilians from the last opposition-held area of Aleppo was suspended on Friday, its second day, after pro-government militias demanded that wounded people also be brought out of al-Foua and Kefraya, and protesters blocked the road out of Aleppo.
There were recriminations on all sides and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said “Aleppo is now a synonym for hell”.
Rebel sources accused pro-government forces they identified as Shia militias of detaining and opening fire on a convoy carrying evacuees from east Aleppo on Friday. Abu Bakr told al-Hadath the previous agreement was breached by pro-government militias who detained “hundreds” of people trying to leave, leading to some deaths.
A Syrian military source denied this, but said a convoy trying to leave Aleppo was returned back to the city.
Aleppo had been divided between government and rebel areas in the nearly six-year war, but a lightning advance by the Syrian Army and its allies that began in mid-November deprived the insurgents of most of their territory in a matter of weeks.