Accessibility links

Syrian Army Says Aleppo Has Been Retaken

  • VOA News

Buses are seen during an evacuation operation of Syrian rebel fighters and civilians from the remaining rebel-held pockets of eastern Aleppo towards rebel-held territory in the west of Aleppo's province, Dec. 21, 2016.

The war-torn city of Aleppo has been recaptured, the Syrian army said Thursday, marking its biggest victory in the nearly six-year civil war.

The announcement meant President Bashar al-Assad's government had full control of Aleppo, the country's most populous city before the war, for the first time since 2012.

The rebel forces agreed to withdraw from the city after a monthlong army offensive drove them from 90 percent of their original territory.

The announcement came hours after the last convoy of residents was reported leaving the city, the last of a weeklong evacuation effort.

Evacuees from the Shi'ite Muslim villages of Foua and Kefraya ride a bus at insurgent-held al-Rashideen in the province of Aleppo, Dec. 22, 2016.
Evacuees from the Shi'ite Muslim villages of Foua and Kefraya ride a bus at insurgent-held al-Rashideen in the province of Aleppo, Dec. 22, 2016.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said that by Thursday, about 34,000 people had left eastern Aleppo. That figure included 4,000 rebel fighters who left overnight.

Hundreds more people have left Foua and Kefraya, the villages in Idlib that the government insisted be included in an evacuation agreement.

"Thanks to the blood of our martyrs and the sacrifices of our valiant armed forces as well as allied forces ... the general command of the armed forces announces the return of security to Aleppo after its release from terrorism and terrorists, and the departure of those who stayed there," the army said in a statement, according to the French news agency AFP.

An ICRC spokeswoman said earlier Thursday that evacuations were expected to be finished, but that heavy snow, wind and freezing temperatures could lengthen the process.

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, Dec. 17, 2016.
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, Dec. 17, 2016.

September incident

Meanwhile, the United Nations released a report saying an airstrike was responsible for devastating an aid convoy in Urem al-Kubra, near Aleppo, in September.

That attack killed least 10 people, injured 22 others and destroyed 17 aid trucks.

The U.N. said Wednesday that it could not conclude whether the airstrike was a "deliberate" hit or who was responsible for it. The inquiry found that only aircraft belonging to Syria, Russia or a U.S.-led coalition were capable of such an attack, and that rebel forces were not.

U.S. officials have said they think Russia was responsible, but the Russian government has denied it was involved.

UN resolution

Also Wednesday, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution to set up an independent panel to investigate possible war crimes in the nearly six-year-old Syrian conflict.

The measure said the panel would prepare files for possible criminal proceedings in "national, regional or international courts or tribunals."

FILE - People walk amid the rubble as they carry belongings that they collected from their houses in the government controlled area of Aleppo, Syria, Dec. 17, 2016.
FILE - People walk amid the rubble as they carry belongings that they collected from their houses in the government controlled area of Aleppo, Syria, Dec. 17, 2016.

It noted repeated calls by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the U.N.'s human rights office for the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. Russia and China have used their veto power to reject several such Security Council resolutions.

Human rights groups applauded the General Assembly's move, but Syria and ally Russia denounced it. Syria's ambassador to the U.N., Bashar Jafaari, called it a "flagrant interference in the internal affairs of a U.N.-member state."

Your opinion

Show comments

XS
SM
MD
LG