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Buses enter rebel-held Aleppo to make final 'evacuations'

Buses began entering the last rebel-held parts of Aleppo on Sunday [AFP]

Date of publication: 18 December, 2016

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Buses have entered the last rebel-held neighbourhoods of Aleppo to take Syrian civilians and rebels out of the city, under a deal reached with the regime.

Buses have entered the last rebel-held parts of Aleppo on Sunday to resume the "evacuation" of Syrian civilians and rebels out of the war-torn city, state media reported.

The operation was suspended on Friday leaving up to 50,000 people trapped inside the rebel enclave, following the earlier evactuation of thousands more under a deal allowing the regime to take full control of the city.

Buses started entering several neighbourhoods on Sunday under the supervision of the Red Crescent and the International Committee of the Red Cross "to bring the remaining terrorists and their families out", state news agency SANA said. Damascus and pro-regime media refer to all rebel groups as "terrorists".

The main obstacle to the resumption of the operation had been a disagreement over the number of people to be evacuated in parallel from two Shia villages, Fuaa and Kafraya, under rebel siege in north-western Syria.

A rebel representative told AFP on Sunday that a new agreement had been reached under which the evacuations would take place in two phases.

"In a first step, half of the people besieged in Aleppo will leave, in parallel with the evacuation of 1,250 people from Fuaa," representative said on condition of anonymity.

According to the United Nations, around 40,000 civilians and rebels are trapped in the opposition-held sector of Aleppo.

"In a second step, 1,250 people from Kafraya will leave in parallel with the evacuation of the remaining people in Aleppo," the rebel representative said.

Another 1,500 people will later leave Fuaa and Kafraya along with the same number from Zabadani and Madaya, two rebel towns besieged by the regime in Damascus province.

Aleppo has seen some of the worst violence of the nearly six-year war that has killed more than 400,000 people.

Since 2012, Assad's regime has launched numerous bids to recapture opposition-held areas of Aleppo, resorting to near-daily airstrikes and barrel bomb attacks despite UN criticism.

Then last month, Russian-backed regime forces stepped up the offensive in a bid to crush the rebellion there once and for all.

The UN Security Council is expected on Sunday to vote on a French-drafted resolution demanding immediate and unconditional access for the UN and its partners to besieged parts of Aleppo and throughout Syria to ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid.

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