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Syrian Civilians Begin Returning to Aleppo Neighborhoods

  • VOA News

A Syrian man walks through the former rebel-held Salaheddin district in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, Dec. 23, 2016.

Hundreds of Syrians returned to Aleppo on Friday to check on their homes after the last rebels left the city Thursday.

Residents wrapped in heavy coats crossed into neighborhoods that had recently been dangerous front lines during the battle for Aleppo, sorting through the wreckage for personal belongings. Some of them had not been able to reach their homes for five years.

While much of the city was free from fighting, sporadic violence continued in some parts. State television reported that rebels outside Aleppo shelled a neighborhood inside the city Friday, killing three people.

This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA shows Syrian troops and pro-government gunmen in the Ansari neighborhood, east Aleppo, Syria, Dec 23, 2016.
This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA shows Syrian troops and pro-government gunmen in the Ansari neighborhood, east Aleppo, Syria, Dec 23, 2016.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the violence, said airstrikes resumed in rebel-held areas of the countryside outside Aleppo on Friday for the first time since the end of a weeklong operation to evacuate residents.

Also Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia, Iran, Turkey and Syria have agreed to hold peace discussions in the Kazakh capital of Astana to resolve the conflict in Syria.

Speaking at his annual, end-of-the-year news conference, Putin said the recent evacuation of Aleppo was "the largest international humanitarian operation in the modern world" and would not have been possible without the "active involvement" of Russia, Turkey, Iran and "the goodwill of and the work carried out by Syrian President [Bashar al-]Assad."

Putin said the next step for Syria should be a nationwide cease-fire. The peace talks in Astana are expected to be held in January.

On Thursday, Assad's government announced it had full control of the massive city of Aleppo 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 International Committee of the Red Cross said by Thursday about 34,000 people had left eastern Aleppo, which rebels held for four years in their effort to push Assad from office.

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