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Thursday 30 November 2023 Dublin: 3°C
Emrah Gurel AP/Press Association Images
Major Delays

Evacuees "in a terrible state" after waiting overnight in freezing conditions to leave Aleppo

In total, it is estimated 3,000 people have been evacuated so far.

MORE THAN 3,000 people left the rebel enclave of Aleppo this morning, raising hope for many others still stranded, as Russia eased its objections to sending UN observers to oversee the evacuations.

A convoy of around 20 buses crossed the front line in the early morning headed for rebel-held territory elsewhere in northern Syria, after around 350 people got out during the night.

They were the first departures since Friday when the government suspended evacuations insisting that people also be allowed to leave two northwestern villages under rebel siege.

A medic said the latest evacuees were in a “terrible state” after their departure was delayed for hours in temperatures well below freezing, compounding their plight from months of siege and bombardment by the army.

The new evacuations from the devastated enclave came as a monitoring group said rebels had finally allowed convoys out of two villages they have besieged since spring last year.

Around 500 people left in a dawn convoy out of Fuaa and Kafraya, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said.

Government demands for evacuations from the two Shiite-majority villages had put the whole process on hold for days, and on Sunday rebels attacked buses sent to bring people out, killing one of the drivers.

Around 350 people in five buses made it out of Aleppo during the night after Russia and Turkey urged the Syrian regime to allow a convoy of buses to pass its final control point, the Observatory said.

It was regime ally Moscow and rebel supporter Ankara that brokered a first evacuation deal last week to end a blistering month-long government assault on the one-time rebel bastion in east Aleppo.

‘Terrible state’

“Five buses carrying the evacuees arrived from besieged parts of east Aleppo,” said Ahmad al-Dbis, who heads a team of doctors and volunteers coordinating evacuations.

“They were in a terrible state,” Dbis told AFP.

“They hadn’t eaten, they had nothing to drink, the children had caught colds, they were not even able to go to the toilet.”

Dbis said he saw families wrapped in several layers of coats getting off the buses.

One young boy was biting into an apple while aid workers distributed packs of bottled water to his family.

Evacuations were suspended on Friday, a day after convoys of people had begun leaving the rebel sector under a deal allowing the regime to take full control of the battleground city.

The main obstacle to a resumption had been the dispute over how many people would be evacuated in parallel from the two Shiite villages.

A rebel representative said that hundreds of people would also be evacuated from Zabadani and Madaya, two rebel towns near the Lebanese border under siege by the army, as part of the deal.

Iran’s official news agency IRNA said the foreign ministers of Russia, Turkey and Iran would meet in Moscow on Tuesday to discuss the situation.

Read: Gunmen attack buses sent to evacuate Syria pro-regime villages

Read: Meet the Syrian refugee who travelled for 55 days to get from Aleppo to a new life in the UK

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