Aleppo evacuation: Thousands stranded in desperate conditions
Thousands of civilians are trapped in increasingly desperate conditions in Aleppo, Syria as disagreements over an evacuation plan caused delays.
Reporters described seeing people sleeping in the streets in freezing conditions with little or no food.
The delays appeared to be caused by an argument over moving civilians from two government-controlled areas in Idlib.
But Syrian state TV reports said buses entered eastern Aleppo around noon local time to begin evacuations.
A plan to evacuate Eastern Aleppo collapsed on Friday, leaving civilians stranded at various points along the route out without access to food or shelter.
UK-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Sunday that a rebel group formerly known as the Nusra Front was preventing buses entering the besieged villages of two government-held areas – Foah and Kefraya in Idlib province.
Pro-government forces had reportedly demanded that a group of people needing medical treatment also be allowed to leave the two areas.
Reports said a new agreement was reached in the early hours of Sunday but delays meant thousands of civilians continued to be stranded throughout the morning.
The International Red Cross said it was preparing for the rescue efforts to resume. Mounir Hakimi, the chair of Syrian Relief, told the BBC on Sunday that the charity was waiting on the Syria-Turkey border to receive civilians.
“We’re waiting for the agreement to re-establish again,” he said. “The news I have this morning is that an agreement has been reached six hours ago and the team is getting ready.”
France has proposed that UN officials should monitor evacuation efforts and report on the protection of civilians and the UN will vote on Sunday on whether to send observers to the stricken city.
There are concerns that the UN motion on observers may be resisted by Russia, an ally of Syria’s president and a veto-wielding Security Council member.
Moscow has vetoed six resolutions on Syria since the conflict began in 2011.
France circulated a draft text late on Friday stating that the council is “alarmed” by the worsening humanitarian crisis in Aleppo, where “tens of thousands” are in peril.
At least 6,000 people left east Aleppo under a fragile truce on Thursday but the operation was halted a day later.
The besieged city has seen rapid government advances in recent weeks.
What the resolution says:
The draft resolution asks UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to redeploy UN humanitarian staff already in Syria “to carry out adequate, neutral monitoring… and to report on evacuations from besieged parts of Aleppo and protection of civilians”.
The UN chief would report to the council within five days on whether the Syrian government had granted the observers access.
The resolution also demands the protection of all doctors, hospitals and ambulances, after reports that Syrian forces had bombed all the medical facilities in Aleppo.
The text specifically mentions the border hospitals of Atmeh, Darkoush, Bab al-Hawa and Bab al-Salamah, where many of the evacuees would be taken.
Who is still trapped in eastern Aleppo?
The UN’s children’s charity Unicef says sick and wounded children are among the evacuees from east Aleppo, some of whom left without their parents.
“However, hundreds of other vulnerable children, including orphans, remain trapped inside that part of the city,” it added.
“We are extremely concerned about their fate. If these children are not evacuated urgently, they could die.”
Abdulkafi al-Hamdo, a teacher who is also still in east Aleppo with his young daughter, told the BBC by phone he did not want to leave his home and city but believed he had no choice.
“The weather is so cold,” he said. “Some people have been here since 09:00 yesterday (07:00 GMT on Friday) and the children are so hungry they are crying. They are freezing. Most of them here are scared of a brutal end to the ceasefire.
“They are afraid that they will not be able to get out. This is the feeling of most people here.”
Source: BBC News