Syria’s Army has declared “victory” today as the last busloads of rebels were evacuated from the city of Aleppo, ending over four years of fighting over what was once the most economically important city in all of Syria, and what is now a collection of badly damaged neighborhoods separated by makeshift barriers.
The army presented the total control they now have over the city as “an important turning point” in the civil war, though it remains unclear if the city retains the value it once did, beyond the obvious PR implications of finishing such a high-profile battle.
There was some expectation that the evacuations would end Wednesday night, though sleet somewhat slowed the buses transporting the large number of people out of the area, and kept things going into early Thursday. UN officials complained having to wait for buses in such cold weather was “traumatic” for the evacuees.
The UN also pushed for a quick deal to end fighting, warning that the Idlib Province, where the rebels were sent, could become “the new Aleppo” if Syria again decides to contest al-Qaeda control of a significant portion of their territory, and insisting that a deal needs to happen to preclude that. Russia, Turkey, and Iran have been negotiating on such a deal, but it is unclear how close it might be.