Evacuation corridor allows rebels and civilians to leave Aleppo

Thursday, December 15, 2016

At 3:00 GMT today, a cease-fire took effect between Syria's Russian-backed al-Assad regime and the rebels who have been fighting for control of Aleppo for the past four years. Evacuation of rebels and civilians is underway.

A man walks through a besieged area of Aleppo, from file.
Image: Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Buses and ambulances provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross, Syrian Red Crescent, and the al-Assad government arrived in the city's rebel enclave to evacuate rebels, their families and other residents to the nearby rebel-held towns of Khan al-Asal and Khan Touman. By 10:00 GMT, local noon, about 950 people were on their way out of Aleppo. Many rebels are also leaving on their own vehicles.

Russian military's General Staff, General Valery Gerasimov, says the "humanitarian corridor" is 21 kilometers long, 6 kilometers of which passes through territory controlled by the al-Assad government. According to the Russian Centre for the Reconciliation of Opposing Sides in Syria, the regime has guaranteed the evacuees' safety, but Ibrahim Abu Allaith of the Syrian Civil Defence claims pro-government forces fired on departing injured persons, killing one and wounding four.

Independent journalist Zouhir al-Shimale reported: "Civilians are given the choice to stay or leave. If they stay, they'll be under regime control. Most of the people want to go because they are afraid of potential massacres by the regime."

The ultimate destination of the evacuees is Idlib Province, which the International Rescue Committee says is likely to be targeted by barrel bombs and besieged.

The evacuation was scheduled to begin earlier this week but was interrupted by fighting on Wednesday.

With a population of 2.3 million, Aleppo was Syria's largest city, the center of much of its industrial and commercial activity, and a UNESCO World Heritage site.