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Last Aleppo evacuations expected 'within hours'

Vehicles were still moving out of east Aleppo on Thursday morning [Getty]

Date of publication: 22 December, 2016

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Evacuations from rebel-held parts of Aleppo continued Thursday morning with dozens of vehicles leaving the city and the operation likely to end within hours.
Evacuations from rebel-held parts of Aleppo continued Thursday morning with dozens of vehicles leaving the city and the operation likely to end within hours, rebels and aid workers have said.

Vehicles were still moving out of east Aleppo after overnight evacuations, which have been slowed by bad weather and snow.

"Coordination teams have been receiving groups of civilians and fighters and transporting them to temporary shelters since last evening," spokesman for the Islamist rebel group Ahrar al-Sham, Ahmad Qarra Ali, told The New Arab.

"The evacuations will likely end within hours. The cold weather and snowfall have delayed this process."

He added that a parallel evacuation of residents was taking place in the Shia-majority villages of Fuaa and Kafraya in northwestern Syria, which are under rebel siege.

A UN official told Reuters that monitors were still on site and that about 300 private vehicles have left overnight and this morning.

About 30,000 people had been evacuated from Aleppo in a nearly week-long operation, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross [ICRC], which has led the convoy of buses and ambulances with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government is waiting for the end of the evacuations so it can declare the completion of the offensive to recapture the one-time rebel stronghold.

The retreat from Aleppo – which had been divided into a rebel-held east and government-controlled west since 2012 – marks the biggest victory for Assad's forces in nearly six years of civil war.

It follows a month-long army offensive and weeks of siege that killed hundreds of people and left rebels with less than 10 percent of the territory they once controlled in the city.

The evacuations – agreed under a Russian and Turkish brokered deal reached last week – also faced delays as they have been plagued by repeated holdups.

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