Syria

Syrian media say Aleppo evacuations to resume

The civil war rages on amid renewed calls for peace talks; John Huddy reports for 'Special Report'

 

Dozens of buses and ambulances were poised to enter east Aleppo to resume evacuating rebel fighters and civilians from the opposition's remaining districts in the city, pro-Syrian government media said Sunday.

As part of a wider deal, convoys were also preparing to evacuate more than 2,000 wounded and sick residents from two villages that have been besieged by rebels, the reports said. The opposition's Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said buses had begun entering the villages, Foua and Kfarya.

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Evacuations from Aleppo had been halted amid mutual recriminations Friday, after several thousand trapped civilians had already been moved from the city. The suspension of the evacuations had thrown an Aleppo deal brokered by Russia and Turkey last week into disarray.

The deal marked a turning point in the country's war. With the opposition leaving Aleppo, Syrian President Bashar Assad has effectively reasserted his control over the Syria's five largest cities and its Mediterranean coast nearly six years after a national movement to unseat him took hold.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, which has overseen the Aleppo evacuations, had no comment Sunday on the possible resumption of evacuations. The agency has said thousands of people, among them women, children, the sick and the injured, remained trapped in besieged areas of the city, waiting in freezing temperatures for the evacuations to resume.

English teacher Wissam Zarqa, an Aleppo resident waiting to leave, said Sunday that families have been assigned bus numbers, in an apparent sign that evacuations would resume.

Syria's pro-government Al-Ikhbariya TV and Al-Manar TV, the media arm of the Lebanon-based Hezbollah militant group that supports the Syria government, on Sunday showed buses lined up at an access road leading into Aleppo. Al-Manar said 75 buses were to enter east Aleppo, and that convoys were also preparing to evacuate sick and wounded from the two rebel-besieged villages.

Also Sunday, the U.N. Security Council was expected to vote on a resolution demanding immediate and unconditional access for the United Nations and its partners to besieged parts of Aleppo and throughout Syria to ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid.

The council scheduled consultations Sunday morning on the French-drafted resolution followed by an open meeting where members are expected to vote.

The draft resolution, obtained by The Associated Press, calls on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to immediately redeploy U.N. humanitarian staff already on the ground to carry out "neutral monitoring" and "direct observation and to report on evacuations."

It stressed that evacuations of civilians must be voluntary and to the destinations of their choice.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Friday he would examine the draft, but was skeptical that monitors could be deployed quickly