Aleppo Evacuation Stalls Amid Rebel Fire in Corridor

Civilians Continue to Flee in Their Own Vehicles

by Jason Ditz, December 16, 2016

After a successful first day of evacuations in Aleppo on Thursday, Friday saw a return of myriad complications, with disputes stalling the evacuation early in the morning, and rebel gunfire leading the buses to leave the area after that first issue was resolved.

The initial problems were a continuation of Wednesday’s dispute over the evacuation of wounded Shi’ite civilians from a pair of Idlib villages. While a deal was nominally made Wednesday night that would allow this, al-Qaeda forces stopped the village evacuations, and the buses in Aleppo were also stopped while this was again negotiated over.

A few hours later, the buses in Aleppo were again ready to go, though exactly what happened in Idlib is still unclear. Either way, the news the buses were back in service was followed by reports of heavy rebel gunfire in the corridor through which the evacuation was to take place, and witnesses reported explosions. The buses again left the area.

Thousands were successfully evacuated on Thursday, 9,000 by the Syrian government’s reckoning, though some reports said it was only about 6,000. The formal evacuation doesn’t appear to have amounted to much at all on Friday, but a number of civilians who were able to get vehicles of their own continued to flee the last rebel area.

Syrian Arab Red Crescent officials say that once the deal is in place, they intend to evacuate some 15,000 civilians from the Idlib villages, while the estimates in Aleppo are that as many as 50,000 might be evacuated from the last sliver of rebel territory.

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