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Aleppo Rebels Fire on Buses, Suspend Their Own Evacuation

Several thousand already bused out from Aleppo but more remain. So far no counter-evacuations from enclave besieged by rebels have taken place

The deal to end Aleppo battle and allow encircled and militarily broken rebels to evacuate to other rebel-held ares was suspended Saturday. 

It had already been on shaky grounds because rebels have so far not allowed any civilians to vacate the encircled Shia enclave of Foua and Kefraya albeit such a counter-evacuation was part of the deal:

The Lebanon-based pan-Arab TV stations Al-Mayadeen interviewed an official with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent in the central province of Hama who said that buses and ambulances are waiting to evacuate thousands of people two Shiite villages besieged by rebels — a last-minute condition that became part of the ceasefire deal for Aleppo.

The SARC official said they will likely begin the evacuation of 15,000 people from Foua and Kefraya adding that the priority will be for the wounded, elderly people, women, children and those with chronic illnesses.

State TV said 110 buses and 19 medical teams were being ready to take those being evacuated from the two Shiite villages. Iran had demanded to tie the evacuations from Foua and Kefraya with the one from Aleppo.

This has led to complications where protesters have blocked roads leading out of Aleppo to interfere with the evacuations of rebels and their families.

Another sticking point is the suspicion of the Syrian government that rebels are taking advantage of the evacuation to transport their prisoners with them instead of freeing them as was the condition of the arrangement:

In announcing the suspensions, the Syrian TV also claimed that the rebels had tried to take with them captives they had seized and were holding in the rebel enclave during bitter battles to defend their territory from a ferocious, weeks-long onslaught by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s troops.

Finally the evacuation and the deal were suspended when rebels opened fire on an evacuation embarkment point forcing the buses to flee:

The Syrian government suspended evacuations from eastern Aleppo just hours after they resumed on Friday, saying that rebels had opened fire on a convoy of evacuees at a crossing point with the enclave, state TV reported.

This was confirmed by a correspondent with the AFP:

An AFP correspondent heard gunfire and explosions in the southern Aleppo neighborhood of Ramussa, a government-held area that evacuees were passing through. Buses and ambulances that had been waiting there to evacuate more people left the area after the gunfire and explosions, the AFP correspondent said.

Even so a considerable number of rebels, perhaps more that one half of the total has already been evacuated, along with a few thousand civilians. The vast majority of the civilians does not wish to be evacuated to rebel-held Syria:

There have been contradictory numbers of how many people were evacuated from Aleppo on Thursday. Syrian state TV reported than more than 9,000 people were evacuated on Thursday alone in Aleppo. The TV said the evacuees included 3,475 men, 3,137 women, 2,359 children and 108 wounded people.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said about 4,000 civilians were taken out on Thursday. Syrian state news agency says 2,300 opposition fighters and their families left Aleppo the previous night. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said around 8,500 people had left the city. Russia, a key Assad ally, said more than 6,462 people, including over 3,000 rebels and 301 wounded, have been taken out.

Hopefully the deal can get back on track today and battle will not be reopened which would not suit the remaining rebels who are much outnumbered at all.

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