Thousands evacuated from Aleppo

Syrians, who were evacuated from the last rebel-held pockets of Syria's northen city of Aleppo, arrive on December 19, 2016 in the opposition-controlled Khan al-Assal region, west of the embattled city. Gunmen attacked buses sent to evacuate people from two pro-regime villages in northwest Syria on December 18, 2016 but a senior military source said the incident should not disrupt parallel evacuations from Aleppo. Thousands of people were to leave the last rebel-held parts of the northern city of Aleppo in exchange for residents leaving Fuaa and Kafraya, Shiite villages, in the neighbouring province of Idlib. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, around 500 people left in a dawn convoy out of Fuaa and Kafraya.  / AFP PHOTO / Omar haj kadour


Aleppo / AFP

Several thousand people left the rebel enclave of Aleppo on Monday, raising hope for many others still stranded as Russia eased its objections to sending UN observers to oversee the evacuations.
Brokered by rivals Turkey and Russia, the complex deal will eventually see President Bashar al-Assad’s forces exert full control over Syria’s battered second city.
Early Monday, convoys carrying more than 3,000 people crossed the front line headed for rebel-held territory elsewhere in northern Syria, after around 350 people got out during the night.
They were the first departures since Friday when the government suspended evacuations, insisting that people also be allowed to leave two northwestern villages under rebel siege.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, around 500 people left in a dawn convoy out of Fuaa and Kafraya.
A medic said the latest evacuees from Aleppo were in a “terrible state” after their departure was delayed for hours in temperatures well below freezing, compounding their plight from months of siege and bombardment by the army.
Ahmad Al-Dbis, who heads a team of doctors and volunteers coordinating evacuations, saw dozens of buses arrive at the staging ground west of Aleppo.
He said they were in “a very bad state after waiting for more than 16 hours” at a regime checkpoint without being allowed off the buses.
“They hadn’t eaten, they had nothing to drink, the children had caught colds, they were not even able to go to the toilet,” Dbis said.

Evacuees ‘been through hell’
Dbis described families wrapped in several layers of coats getting off the buses, which then headed back to Aleppo in readiness to bring out more.
A young boy bit into an apple as aid workers distributed bottled water to his family.
“The people we are welcoming have been through hell—the level of trauma they have experienced is impossible to describe or comprehend,” said Casey Harrity of the international NGO Mercy Corps.
Residents of east Aleppo—a rebel bastion since 2012—had lived under four months of suffocating siege when Syria’s army began its blistering assault in mid-November to retake the whole city.
In an 11th-hour deal, regime ally Moscow and rebel supporter Ankara agreed on the evacuation of thousands of civilians and fighters from the last remaining opposition-held pocket in Aleppo.
Around 8,500 people left the eastern districts on the first day of evacuations, but Syria’s government suspended operations on Friday.
The main obstacle to a resumption had been the dispute over how many people would be evacuated in parallel from Fuaa and Kafraya.
On Sunday, rebels attacked buses sent to bring people out of the two Shiite-majority villages, killing one of the drivers.
But the deal appeared to be back on Monday morning, with 10 buses leaving Fuaa and Kafraya almost simultaneously with those leaving Aleppo.
A rebel representative said that hundreds of people would also be evacuated from Zabadani and Madaya, two rebel towns near the Lebanese border under siege by the army, as part of the deal.
Iran’s official news agency IRNA said the foreign ministers of Russia, Turkey and Iran would meet in Moscow on Tuesday to discuss the situation.

UN to vote ‘unanimously’
Moscow, which has carried out an air war in support of the Damascus regime since September last year, had threatened to veto a UN Security Council draft resolution calling for monitors to oversee the protection of civilians.
But after four hours of closed-door consultations on Sunday it gave the French-drafted text its guarded support.
US ambassador Samantha Power anticipated member states would approve it “unanimously” at 1400 GMT.
Families have been sheltering at night in freezing temperatures in bombed out apartment blocks in Aleppo’s Al-Amiriyah district, the departure point for evacuations.
An AFP reporter visited a hospital where patients lay on floors with no food or water and with almost no heating.
A physiotherapist, Mahmud Zaazaa, said only “three doctors, a pharmacist and three nurses” remained in the rebel enclave.
An official said more than half of Aleppo’s buildings had been destroyed or seriously damaged since the rebels overran the east in summer 2012.
UN envoy Staffan de Mistura estimated that as of Thursday around 40,000 civilians and perhaps as many as 5,000 opposition fighters remained in Aleppo’s rebel enclave.



Turkey border crossing becomes key hub in evacuation 

Cilvegözü / AFP

Clogged daily by dozens of aid trucks, a Turkish border crossing has become a key hub in efforts to get help to those who have fled the devastation in the war-ravaged Syrian city of Aleppo.
The Cilvegozu border crossing in Turkey’s southern Hatay province just east of its main city Antakya is in a peaceful area, with little sign of the horror that lies just a few dozen kilometres beyond to the south.
Already home to some three million mainly Syrian refugees, Turkey has in recent months focused efforts on looking after victims of the conflict inside Syria, rather than encouraging more to come in.
But there is full mobilisation at the Cilvegozu crossing that faces Syria’s Bab al-Hawa, with Turkish NGOs playing a key role in piling aid for desperate civilians from Aleppo evacuated to the neighbouring Idlib province.
Every day, dozens of aid trucks from the Turkish Red Crescent and the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) charity head into Syria, not to Aleppo itself but to camps that are accommodating thousands of people just inside the border.
The Turkish Red Crescent has so far dispatched 216 trucks and the IHH 381 trucks, all loaded with humanitarian aid, since the start of the month.

‘80,000 person tent city’
“I have come all the way from Konya” in central Anatolia, a truck driver told AFP while waiting his turn to cross into the buffer zone.
“I am carrying food, baby diapers and clothes to be delivered for Syrians,” he said.
Turkey has also stepped up efforts to set up a huge “tent city” in Idlib province to accommodate up to 80,000 Syrian refugees fleeing Aleppo.
According to Turkish officials, three possible sites have been identified in Idlib province. “We are ready for any scenario,” said a Turkish official.
“Turkey in the past managed such humanitarian operations with success. There’s no problem there.”
While Turkey is clearly keen to ensure most Syrians stay on their side of the border, it is also setting up a smaller 1,000-person tent city—the preferred official term rather than refugee camp —in its border town of Reyhanli.
This will house “disadvantaged Syrians” including the injured, the disabled and their families.

‘Demanding job’
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan since the start of the Syrian civil war championed an “open door” policy to allow all Syrians inside the country.
But in practice, access has now become much harder with Ankara preferring to see Syrians looked after inside Syria.
One of the aims of Turkey’s ongoing military incursion inside Syria is to create a “safe area” that could house Syrian refugees. Heavily injured are nonetheless being transferred into Turkish hospitals for treatment.
Since the evacuations began last week, 131 injured Aleppo people—46 of them children—have been taken to Turkey as of Monday morning, a Turkish official said.
Five of them have died in hospital. Funeral cars from Turkey have also been seen bringing the dead back to the Turkish border.
A vocal critic of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, Turkey has championed itself as the broker with Russia of a ceasefire deal opening the way for civilians and rebel fighters to be evacuated from eastern sections of divided city of Aleppo in a stut


Seven-year-old Syria war symbol evacuated from Aleppo 

(FILES) This file photo taken on October 12, 2016 in east Aleppo shows Syrian Bana al-Abed using a smart-phone to check her Twitter account as, with the help of her mother, she prepares to post on Twitter in English about life in the besieged eastern districts of Aleppo. Seven-year-old Bana al-Abed, whose Twitter account has offered a tragic account of the war in Syria, was evacuated from the divided Syrian city of Aleppo on December 19, 2016, a Turkish NGO announced on social media. "This morning @AlabedBana was also rescued from #Aleppo with her family. We warmly welcomed them," the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) wrote on its Twitter account, sharing an IHH aid worker's selfie picture with the girl.  / AFP PHOTO / THAER MOHAMMED

Cilvegözü / AFP

Seven-year-old Bana al-Abed, whose Twitter account has offered a tragic account of the war in Syria, was evacuated from the divided Syrian city of Aleppo on Monday, a Turkish NGO announced on social media.
“This morning @AlabedBana was also rescued from #Aleppo with her family. We warmly welcomed them,” the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) wrote on its Twitter account, sharing an IHH aid worker’s selfie picture with the girl.
For her tens of thousands of followers, Bana is a symbol of the tragedy unfolding in Syria, although Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has slammed her and her mother’s nearly daily tweets as propaganda.
Bana’s account has posted pictures of the destruction in Aleppo including her rubble-littered street, while people have tweeted messages of support and concern, notably fearing for her life when tweets became less frequent.
At least 15,000 children are among the more than 300,000 people who have been killed in Syria’s five-year war.
Tarakji Ahmad, president of Syrian American Medical Society, also posted a picture of Bana, with an aid worker.
“@AlabedBana and many children arrived to #Aleppo countryside. @sams_usa@UOSSM and partners are coordinating the response plan there,” he tweeted, also announcing the evacuation.
Bana’s last tweet with her mother Fatemah before the evacuation made an appeal to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu for putting a fragile ceasefire back on track after frequent delays.

Turkey denies secret ‘Syria bargain’ 

Istanbul / AFP

Turkey on Monday denied it had forged any secret “bargain” with Russia over the future of Syria ahead of a key ministerial meeting including Iran, despite improving cooperation that led to a deal for evacuations from war-wrecked Aleppo.
Turkey and Russia saw relations plunge to their worst levels since the Cold War last year when a Turkish jet shot down a Russian war plane over Syria.
But a reconciliation deal was signed earlier this year and despite being on opposing sides in the Syria conflict—with Ankara backing rebels trying to topple Moscow ally President Bashar al-Assad—the rhetoric has warmed considerably.
This has led to suggestions that Turkey agreed to Russia helping Assad to retake all of Aleppo, while Moscow vowed not to interfere in Turkey’s own military operation in northern Syria. “That’s not how we see it,” a senior Turkish foreign ministry official said. “It is not like we make a kind of a bargain. We don’t see any connection.”
In a military operation that began in August, Turkish forces and rebel allies are now pressing on the Syrian town of Al-Bab where they have encountered stiff resistance from extremists.
“People are more impatient to see more results,” said the official. “It is difficult but it will continue.”

Leave a Reply

Send this to a friend