Russia, Syria preparing rebels’ exodus from Aleppo — ministry
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Russia, Syria preparing rebels’ exodus from Aleppo — ministry

After fighting in major city dies down overnight, planned withdrawal of fighters and civilians expected to go ahead

Buses which are expected to be used to evacuate civilians leaving from rebel-held areas of Aleppo are seen waiting on December 14, 2016. (AFP Photo/George Ourfalian)
Buses which are expected to be used to evacuate civilians leaving from rebel-held areas of Aleppo are seen waiting on December 14, 2016. (AFP Photo/George Ourfalian)

Russia’s defense ministry said Thursday it was working with the Syrian authorities to prepare the evacuation of the remaining rebels in war-torn eastern Aleppo.

“On the order of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Russian ceasefire monitoring center, in cooperation with Syrian authorities, is preparing the evacuation of the remaining rebels and members of their families from the eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo,” a ministry statement said.

The rebels would be evacuated toward the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib in 20 buses and 10 ambulances, it said.

The announcement comes as a new agreement was reached for the evacuation of rebel fighters remaining in Aleppo, according to a senior Syrian military source.

The Russian defense ministry said that Syrian authorities had guaranteed the safety of the rebels leaving the city.

Smoke and flames rise from buildings in Aleppo's southeastern al-Zabdiya neighborhood following government strikes on December 14, 2016, after a deal to evacuate rebel districts of the city fell apart. (AFP Photo/Stringer)
Smoke and flames rise from buildings in Aleppo’s southeastern al-Zabdiya neighborhood following government strikes on December 14, 2016, after a deal to evacuate rebel districts of the city fell apart. (AFP Photo/Stringer)

A similar evacuation which had been due to take place on Wednesday morning fell apart, with Russia saying the Syrian army had resumed its assault on eastern Aleppo after rebels broke a truce intended to allow them to leave.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the fighting that scuttled Wednesday’s truce stopped in the city around 4 a.m. Thursday.

Meanwhile, the pan-Arab TV station Al-Mayadeen broadcast live from the Ramouseh crossing point on the southern edge of Aleppo, where ambulances belonging to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent were on hand, parked and waiting to evacuate the wounded and sick Syrians. A green-colored government bus was also seen in the footage.

The rebels’ evacuation would mark a major victory for President Bashar Assad over the opposition forces who rose up against him in March 2011.

Syrian pro-government forces advance in the Jisr al-Haj neighborhood of Aleppo during the ongoing operation to retake remaining rebel-held areas in the city on December 14, 2016. (AFP PHOTO/George OURFALIAN)
Syrian pro-government forces advance in the Jisr al-Haj neighborhood of Aleppo during the ongoing operation to retake remaining rebel-held areas in the city on December 14, 2016. (AFP PHOTO/George OURFALIAN)

Moscow is backing staunch ally Assad’s forces with a bombing campaign, while Washington has supported rebel forces battling the regime.

The fall of Aleppo would be the worst rebel defeat since the start of the conflict, leaving the regime in control of Syria’s five major cities.

More than 300,000 people have been killed and over half of the population displaced in nearly six years of fighting. Millions have also fled the country.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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