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Shots fired as Aleppo evacuations 'halted' by pro-regime militias

East Aleppo evacuations halted after rebels accused of violating the deal [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 16 December, 2016

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Syrian pro-regime forces have halted evacuations from east Aleppo after an exchange of fire at the Ramoussa crossing where loyalists are demanding evacuations of opposition-besieged towns.
Evacuation of civilians and rebel fighters from east Aleppo has been suspended amid accusations rebels broke terms of the evacuation deal.

A correspondent for The New Arab said a shooting at Ramoussa, a government-held neighbourhood which evacuees had been passing through, had halted the eighth batch of evacuations. 

Pro-regime fighters reportedly blocked the Ramoussa crossing, demanding the humanitarian situation in the two towns of Fuaa and Kefraya in Idlib province, which are besieged by opposition forces, is addressed first.

Farouq Abu Bakr, a negotiator for the opposition, confirmed to The New Arab that evacuation operations had been stopped to "ensure the safety of civilians".

But the causes of the suspension were made less clear when state-run Syrian TV station reported that rebels had breached an agreement with the government "by trying to take prisoners with them during the evacuation".

"The evacuation operation has been suspended because the militants failed to respect the conditions of the agreement," a security source told AFP.

The cease-fire deal, brokered by Damascus ally Moscow and rebel backers Turkey, broke down on Wednesday as fighting resumed and Iran introduced a new demand for the evacuation of the two Shia-majority villages in Idlib.

Thousands were expected to evacuate the villages, Fuaa and Kefraya, which have long been besieged by insurgents in the mostly rebel-held province. It was unclear why the evacuations had not yet begun, but a convoy set off to evacuate the villages on Thursday, Syrian state media said.

Some 50,000 remain trapped, according to UN envoy Staffan de Mistura

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent have been told to leave Aleppo.

Robert Mardini, regional head of the ICRC confirmed that "regretfully, the operation was put on hold".

Thousands of civilians and rebels began to leave the last rebel-held parts of the city aboard buses and ambulances on Thursday under an evacuation deal that will allow the Syrian regime to take full control of Aleppo after years of fighting.

Some 50,000 remain trapped, according to UN envoy Staffan de Mistura.

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