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Evacuations from Aleppo Resume; Thousands Are Moved From Rebel-Held Zones


Buses evacuated residents from Fua and Kfarya, Shiite villages near the Syrian city of Aleppo, on Monday. Credit Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

BEIRUT, Lebanon — After days of delays and sporadic violence, the evacuation of civilians and fighters from besieged communities in Syria has resumed, with convoys taking people out of Aleppo and two nearby Shiite villages, Syrian state television and opposition conflict monitors reported on Monday.

By midday on Monday, a total of 12,000 people had been removed from the last rebel-held part of eastern Aleppo, the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusogulu, said in a post on Twitter that took into account 4,500 people who had been evacuated overnight Sunday and Monday.

Among those evacuated from eastern Aleppo to a rebel-held area farther west was 7-year-old Bana al-Abed, whose Twitter posts with her mother throughout the siege by government forces helped draw attention to the plight of civilians.

Opposition activists posted videos and photographs of the girl and her mother on Monday after they arrived in rebel-held territory.

The evacuation deal, brokered by Russia and Turkey, was intended to relieve one of the more crushing aspects of Syria’s war: the practice by both sides of besieging their opponents and bombarding their communities.

The agreement, and an accompanying cease-fire, has proceeded haltingly since it was supposed to have begun on Wednesday, with gunfire on the route repeatedly stopping convoys.

On Sunday, rebels opposed to evacuations from the Shiite villages set fire to several buses that had been on their way to pick up sick and wounded people.

The United Nations Security Council was scheduled to vote on Monday on a resolution to send monitors to oversee the evacuations.

Russia threatened to veto an original resolution proposed by France, but a compromise was reached that would allow the monitors to observe after consultations with “interested parties.”

That could give any number of groups on the ground — including Syrian soldiers and the Shiite militias fighting alongside them — the ability to block access. Fighters from the array of rebel groups, including extremists, could also block access to areas they control.

Samantha Power, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, said on Sunday that she expected the new resolution to pass unanimously.

The evacuations, which have frequently been delayed because of violence, seem to have restarted overnight. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which opposes the Syrian government and which monitors the conflict from Britain, said five buses that had been held up by pro-government forces for hours were allowed to leave eastern Aleppo before midnight on Sunday.

The eastern part of Aleppo, the remaining rebel-held area of the city, has been surrounded by government forces for months and subjected to frequent airstrikes that have killed hundreds of people and have reduced neighborhoods to rubble.

Ten buses carrying civilians left two Shiite villages in Idlib Province, Fua and Kfarya, on Monday, according to the Observatory and to Syrian state-run television. Those villages have been surrounded by antigovernment insurgents for years and were also the target of shelling.

If the evacuations continue without interruption, the removal of the remaining residents of eastern Aleppo could be finished by Monday, putting the entire city under the control of President Bashar al-Assad and marking a turning point in the war.

Aleppo was once the largest city in Syria and was its industrial hub before the war. Its fall would leave rebels in control of only smaller towns and rural areas.

The jihadists of the Islamic State, who oppose both the government and the rebels, still hold significant territory farther east, including the city of Raqqa, their de facto capital.

Source: NYT > World

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