Nearly 1,000 leave Aleppo after operation begins to evacuate rebels, patients

A wounded Syrian woman is helped onto the back of a truck as she flees Aleppo, Syria, on Dec 14, 2016.
A wounded Syrian woman is helped onto the back of a truck as she flees Aleppo, Syria, on Dec 14, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

ALEPPO (AFP, Reuters) - Nearly 1,000 people including fighters left the battered rebel-controlled parts of east Aleppo on Thursday (Dec 15) under a fragile evacuation deal, a senior Syrian military source told AFP.  

The source said “951 people, including 200 fighters and 108 wounded, which also included rebels” made up the first convoy to be evacuated from the war-battered city.

Earlier on Thursday a Syrian official source and a monitor said an operation to organise the departure of fighters from eastern Aleppo had started, and the first convoy of people requiring medical attention had begun to leave the rebel-held district.

"The operation to organise the departure of gunmen from eastern Aleppo has now started," the Syrian official source told Reuters.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the first convoy of people requiring medical attention had begun a journey which will take patients through government territory into the rebel-held western Aleppo countryside as agreed in an evacuation deal this week, the war monitor said.  

 
 
 

The powerful Syrian rebel group Ahrar al Sham said an agreement to evacuate civilians and rebels from Aleppo came after negotiators overcame what they said was obstruction by Iran and its militias to prevent the deal.

“There were Iranian efforts to exploit the situation in Aleppo and prevent any evacuation of our people from besieged Aleppo but in the end a deal was reached despite the Iranian intransigence,” Ahmad Qura Ali, the spokesman for the group, told Reuters.  

Syrian rebels say Turkey has played a main role in getting Russia to exert pressure on Damascus to abide by the deal after it was delayed on Wednesday and they blamed a surge in shelling on Wednesday on Iranian-backed militias.  

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Russian leader Valdimir Putin agreed in a phone call on Wednesday to revive the deal.