Syrian regime warns last rebels to 'quit Aleppo'
Syrian regime forces urged the last remaining rebels and civilians to leave the besieged opposition enclave in Aleppo as it prepares to take full control of the devastated city while the UN prepares to send in observers.
In East Aleppo, soldiers using megaphones called on the remaining fighters and civilians to exit the opposition districts, a military source told AFP.
"The army is expected to enter (Aleppo) to clean the area after the fighters leave," the source said.
It comes as the UN prepare to send observers to Aleppo, an act resisted by Damascus-ally Russia and opposed by Syria's regime.
The green light came a day after the UN Security Council adopted a resolution on deploying the monitors to oversee the evacuation and report on the protection of civilians who remain in the besieged city.
"We have received authorisation to send 20 international and national staff to Aleppo to play a critical role in the monitoring and response in Aleppo city," said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
"Access to people in need to provide them with life-saving humanitarian assistance is also urgently needed," he added.
There are fears that they could arrive too late, to ensure the safe escort of the the residents out of the besieged district after reports of killing and abductions of evacuees.
The evacuation of Aleppo's rebel sector is seen as a pivotal moment in the nearly six-year war that has killed more than 310,000 people and triggered a major humanitarian and refugee crisis.
At least 25,000 people have left rebel districts of Aleppo since the operation began last week, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which is overseeing the operation.
Spokesperson Ingy Sedky said 750 people had been evacuated in parallel from al-Fuaa and Kafraya, two Shia-majority villages in north-west Syria besieged by rebels, as part of the deal.
Ten buses left the battered east on Tuesday morning, Sedky told AFP.
But no other buses moved the rest of the day, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and a medical official overseeing evacuations.
The government and other parties on the ground have agreed to allow 20 observers to be sent to east Aleppo to monitor evacuations, said UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.
Following a flurry of diplomatic activity, key regime allies Russia and Iran as well as rebel supporter Turkey agreed to act as guarantors in Syria peace talks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier.
They also backed expanding a ceasefire, according to Lavrov, who said the evacuation of East Aleppo should finish within "one or two days".
Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said the delay was due to complications in al-Fuaa and Kafraya.
Around 20 buses had entered the two villages on Tuesday but had yet to evacuate anyone, Abdel Rahman said, but he had no details on the reason.
State news agency SANA blamed the "delay in the last batch" of evacuations from Aleppo on "disputes" among rebel groups.
Sick and wounded
The World Health Organisation said the Aleppo evacuees included around 300 needing medical treatment, among them dozens of children.
"The huge majority of these patients have trauma injuries," spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic said, adding that 93 people in critical condition had been referred to hospitals in Turkey.
On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said he was looking into bringing wounded civilians from Aleppo into the Jewish state for treatment.
"I've asked the foreign ministry to seek ways to expand our medical assistance to the civilian casualties of the Syrian tragedy, specifically in Aleppo," he said at a year-end reception for foreign media.
"We're prepared to take in wounded women and children, and also men if they're not combatants… bring them into Israel, take care of them in our hospitals as we've done with thousands of Syrian civilians," he said.
|I've asked the foreign ministry to seek ways to expand our medical assistance to the civilian casualties of the Syrian tragedy, specifically in Aleppo.
- Binyamin Netanyahu
"We're looking into the ways of doing this," he added. "It's being explored as we speak."
Israel and its northern neighbour have formally been at war for decades but following the outbreak of the Syrian civil war it has been treating casualties, including wounded fighters.
More than 2,000 Syrians have been treated in Israeli hospitals since 2013, according to the Israeli army.
Aleppo was once Syria's commercial and industrial hub, but it has been divided since 2012 between regime forces in the west and rebels in the east.
Government forces launched an offensive in mid-November to capture the whole city, and had seized more than 90 percent of the eastern half when the evacuation deal was struck.
Diplomatic efforts - including several rounds of peace talks in Geneva - have failed to resolve the conflict, which reached a turning point last year when Russia launched airstrikes in support of Assad.