Deal Renegotiated After Wednesday Fighting
The evacuation of rebels from their last strip of territory in Aleppo was to begin Wednesday morning, in a deal negotiated by Russia and Turkey. The evacuations didn’t happen, however, with troops and rebels fighting each other instead, and both sides blaming the other for the lack of calm.
While it’s not totally clear who started what, Iran sought to get the evacuation of wounded civilians from a pair of Shi’ite villages added to the deal after it was already finalized, and everyone started fighting again. Syrian airstrikes targeted the rebels, and rebel shells hit the evacuation route. Russia and Turkey urged immediate calm, and eventually got it.
The official reports are that Turkey and Russia have negotiated a revised deal now, which will see the evacuations begin on Thursday morning, and that will allow some medical evacuations from the villages. Already, however, some of the factions tangentially involved are denying that the deal is in place.
Rebel faction Ahrar al-Sham, one of Turkey’s main proxies, is claiming that the deal does not allow any civilians to leave the villages, while another rebel faction Noureddin al-Zinki is confirming that the villages can evacuate. Al-Qaeda, whose forces are surrounding the villages, hasn’t said anything either way.
Hezbollah, which reportedly sided with Iran on seeing the deal renegotiated to include the villages, denied that any deal was in place at all, claiming that there were still major obstacles in the way of coming to any final deal on the matter.
Western officials, for their part, mostly just railed at Russia over the matter, accusing them of “war crimes” over the evacuation deal not going through, even though they negotiated the evacuation deal in the first place and haven’t had military involvement in Aleppo since October.
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