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Rebel evacuation from Aleppo faces hiccups, still holding though

Xinhua | Updated: 2016-12-19 08:55

Rebel evacuation from Aleppo faces hiccups, still holding though

A bus drives through the Syrian government-controlled crossing of Ramoussa, on the southern outskirts of Aleppo, on December 18, 2016, during an evacuation operation of rebel fighters and civilians from rebel-held areas. [Photo/Xinhua]

ALEPPO - Sunday's planned evacuation of rebels from their remaining strongholds in the northern city of Aleppo faced some snags, with the government accusing the rebels of breaching a deal for the second time, a military source told Xinhua.

A total of 75 buses entered eastern Aleppo on Sunday to evacuate the remaining rebels, a day after the suspended evacuation was resumed.

The buses entered the neighborhoods of Zibdiyeh, Salahuddien, Mashhad and Ansari in southeastern Aleppo to evacuate the remaining rebels and their families through the Ramouseh road toward rebel-held areas in the southwestern countryside of Aleppo, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, buses entered the Shiite towns of Kafraya and Foa in the countryside of the northwestern province of Idlib on Saturday evening to evacuate as many as 1,200 Shiites besieged by the rebels.

The Shiite people are set to leave Idlib simultaneously with the rebel evacuation from Aleppo on Sunday, as part of a Russian-Turkish deal.

However, the rebels' Ahrar al-Sham group, which is besieging the two Shiite towns, burnt five buses at the entrance of the two towns, allowing only four buses to get in. The incident is still murky.

The rebels in Idlib posted a video online showing the buses on fire outside the towns.

Military sources said the burning of the buses is another violation to the deal, which was struck by Russia and Turkey.

After the burning of the buses, the government dispatched another batch of buses instead of the ones set on fire, in what appeared to be a resolve to carrying on with the deal.

This has caused a delay as the rebels in Aleppo will have to evacuate simultaneously with the civilians in the Shiite towns, which could take several hours or even until Monday, till the buses enter the towns and evacuate the people.

The evacuation of rebels and their families from the last remaining strongholds in eastern Aleppo started on Thursday, and over 8,000 have already left toward the western countryside of Aleppo.

The evacuation came after the Syrian army succeeded to retake 99 percent of the rebel-held areas in Aleppo, following a major offensive.

As a result, over 80,000 people fled eastern Aleppo toward government-controlled areas in western Aleppo, while the rebels and their families were included in a deal between Russia and Turkey, as Moscow negotiated on behalf of the Syrian government, while Ankara negotiated for the rebels.

However, the evacuation process was suspended Friday, due to many reasons.

One of the main reasons is that the rebels in Idlib were stopped short of allowing civilians in both pro-government Shiite towns to leave in tandem with the evacuation of rebels from eastern Aleppo.

On Saturday, a military source said the resumption of the rebel evacuation from their last few strongholds in the eastern part of Aleppo is expected to resume on soon, as the rebels agreed to abide by previous pledges to allow civilians out of the Shiite towns, among other conditions.

The deal was supposed to see the evacuation of 15,000 people, including 4,000 rebels.

With the last evacuation of the rebels from eastern Aleppo, the Syrian army will be on control of the entire city, a victory seen as a writing new chapter of history, as President Bashar al-Assad recently said.

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