Aleppo Evacuations Resume After Delays Strand Civilians in Freezing Cold
Evacuations from rebel-held Aleppo resumed on Wednesday after a more than 24-hour pause, Associated Press reported.
A convoy of buses were stranded overnight in freezing temperatures according to opposition activists. Rebels were preventing the linked evacuations from two government-held towns in Idlib, according to Syrian state media, BBC News reported.
Sixty buses with room for 3,000 people were waiting to leave Aleppo on Wednesday, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, while 21 buses were waiting to evacuate sick and wounded people from Fua and Kefraya, two rebel-besieged towns in Idlib.
Syrian state news agency SANA said that “differences among terrorist groups” delayed evacuations from Fua and Kefraya, using the Syrian government’s blanket term for rebel factions.
Nearly 25,000 people have left Aleppo for opposition-held areas in rural Aleppo and neighboring Idlib province in the past week, according to the Red Cross, while 750 have left Fua and Kefraya.
“The evacuation is bringing some respite to the people, some relief, but still you can imagine the psychological and physical effect it has on them,” said Ingy Sedky, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross. “Thousands of families are now leaving their homes, their belongings, leaving their memories behind, exploring other territories and starting [anew].”
The government will take complete control of Aleppo city once evacuations are complete. Government and allied forces have used megaphones to call on any remaining rebels to clear the city. A rebel spokesman for the Fastaqim group told AP that they “won’t leave until security of all the civilians has been fully guaranteed.” Twenty U.N. observers are expected to arrive in Aleppo soon in an attempt to ensure civilians receive humanitarian aid and protection following the approval of a U.N. Security Council resolution.
Regional Powers Agree to Broker Syria Peace Deal
Russia, Turkey and Iran have agreed to sponsor peace talks between the Syrian government and the rebels fighting to overthrow it, the Telegraph reported.
The three regional powers met in Moscow on Tuesday to discuss possible resolutions to the near six-year conflict.
“Iran, Russia and Turkey are ready to assist in preparing the agreement in the making between the Syrian government and the opposition and to become its guarantor,” said Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister. “The ministers agree with the importance of widening the cease-fire, of free access for humanitarian aid and movement of civilians on Syrian territory.”
Russia and Iran are key supporters of the Syrian government, while Turkey has been an important backer of opposition forces. Ankara’s tone has significantly changed amid strengthening ties with Moscow. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan no longer demands Syrian President Assad step down, and has stopped criticizing Russian bombing raids in Syria. At the Moscow summit, Turkish objections to the role of the Lebanese militia Hezbollah in Syria were ignored by Russia and Iran.
Clashes Between Turkey and ISIS Intensify
The Turkish-backed offensive to defeat ISIS in al-Bab intensified on Wednesday, Reuters reported.
Four Turkish soldiers and 40 ISIS fighters were killed in clashes near the northern town on Wednesday, according to the Turkish military. Turkish-backed rebels have besieged al-Bab for several weeks, taking control of a strategic area near the town’s hospital. ISIS has responded with an intense wave of suicide bombings and attacks using vehicle-borne explosives, the Turkish military said in a statement.
- Los Angeles Times: Bitter Cold and an Uncertain Wait for Syrians Who Made It Out of Aleppo
- The Atlantic: What Are Turkey and Russia Doing in Syria?
- The New York Times: Russia, Iran and Turkey Meet for Syria Talks, Excluding U.S.
- The Century Foundation: Into the Tunnels
- Syria Comment: The Situation in al-Fu’a And Kafariya