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25,000 evacuated from Aleppo so far, says Red Cross

Around 70,000 people are expected to leave eastern Aleppo [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 20 December, 2016

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Evacuation process continues after resuming on Monday, with 'thousands more' Syrians still stranded in eastern Aleppo's battered neighbourhoods.
At least 25,000 people have left the former Syrian opposition bastion of east Aleppo since evacuations began last week, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Tuesday.

"Yesterday [Monday] only, we evacuated 15,000 people from east Aleppo. If we consider those evacuated on Thursday too, then the total should be 25,000," spokeswoman Ingy Sedky told AFP.

Thousands of others are still waiting to leave eastern Aleppo, although the exact numbers of civilians and fighters still stranded remain unclear, Sedky added.

The ICRC has been overseeing the implementation of the Aleppo evacuation deal that was brokered by Russia and Turkey. The deal was temporarily suspended until early on Monday, due to disagreement over government demands for the simultaneous evacution of two Shia-majority villages currently besieged by rebels in northwestern Syria. 

After years of siege and Russian-backed bombardment, eastern Aleppo fell to regime forces following a month-long assault by Syria's army and loyalist militias. Damascus hailed the assault as having achieved the "liberation" of Aleppo, with President Bashar al-Assad announcing the regime's victory on Dcember 15.

On Monday, the UN Security Council voted unanimously in favour of sending international observers to oversee the evacuation process. This follows allegations of summary executions and numerous other abuses against civilians having been committed by the Syrian regime in eastern Aleppo.

Syria's UN ambassador, Bashar al-Jaafari, accused Western powers of scrambling to send observers to east Aleppo to rescue what he described as foreign spies supporting the opposition forces.

"The main purpose is how to rescue these terrorist foreigners, intelligence officers," Jaafari told reporters. "This is why you saw this hysterical move in the council in the last few days."

UN Secretary General Ban-Ki moon is expected to report back to the council in four days regarding whether Damascus will grant access to the observers.

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