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Evacuation Buses Enter Aleppo

  • VOA News

In this still image taken from video from Syria TV vehicles wait to cross into east Aleppo at Ramouseh crossing point, Dec. 18, 2016. Dozens of vehicles were on standby at the Ramouseh crossing point near Aleppo on Sunday morning.

Syrian state news agency SANA says evacuation buses under the supervision of the Red Crescent and The International Committee of the Red Cross began entering several neighborhoods in war-torn Aleppo Sunday to work on evacuating the remaining civilians and rebels.

Tens of thousands of trapped and frantic Syrian civilians and rebels have been waiting for evacuations to resume.

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.
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.

Earlier Sunday, Elodie Schindler, an ICRC spokeswoman, held out hope for them when she said her organization is "ready to resume the evacuation of people from eastern Aleppo, hopefully this morning."

The U.N. Security Council is expected to vote Sunday on whether to send monitors to the war-ravaged Syrian city of Aleppo to oversee evacuations and to help provide protection for civilians who remain.

The council will consider a French draft proposal that voices alarm at the worsening humanitarian crisis in and near the city, and for the "tens of thousands of besieged Aleppo inhabitants" in need of evacuation.

Sunday's vote, like a half dozen truce proposals considered by the council this year, is expected to draw fire from Syria's principal ally, Russia, which has vetoed earlier cease-fire proposals.

Rebel fighters and civilians gather as they wait to be evacuated from a rebel-held sector of eastern Aleppo, Syria, Dec. 16, 2016.
Rebel fighters and civilians gather as they wait to be evacuated from a rebel-held sector of eastern Aleppo, Syria, Dec. 16, 2016.

Monitors say as many as 40,000 civilians and the last remaining rebel fighters waited in vain for evacuation operations to resume Saturday, after the exodus was suspended Friday by the Damascus government. The suspension came after pro-government forces demanded the evacuation of two Shi'ite villages currently under siege by rebels.

Syria's government also said the rebels broke the evacuation agreement by trying to smuggle heavy weapons and hostages out of Aleppo. The rebels said it was the government side that shattered the truce.

Contrary to earlier reports that evacuations would resume Saturday, monitors from the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said they had seen no such activity by early Sunday. The observatory had expected 4,000 people to be evacuated from the two Shi'ite villages in a convoy of buses.

Western news agencies quoted families who spent the night Saturday in bombed-out apartment blocks, located near departure points announced earlier by the government, as saying no buses ever appeared.

Supporters of a pro-Islamic group stage a protest against the war in Aleppo, at the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Syria near the southeastern city of Hatay, Turkey, Dec, 17, 2016. The placard reads in Turkish and Arabic: "Aleppo is burning."
Supporters of a pro-Islamic group stage a protest against the war in Aleppo, at the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Syria near the southeastern city of Hatay, Turkey, Dec, 17, 2016. The placard reads in Turkish and Arabic: "Aleppo is burning."

The conflict in Syria, which began nearly six years ago as a protest against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, has killed nearly 400,000 people, according to U.N. estimates. Millions more have fled their homeland, many of them for presumed safety and hospitality in European countries that are reluctant to receive them.

In Washington Friday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry described events in Aleppo as "indiscriminate slaughter" and a "cynical [government] policy of terrorizing civilians."

Kerry has repeatedly vowed that the United States would work to save lives and continue pushing all parties in Syria toward a resolution that allows humanitarian groups full access to the country.

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