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19 Dec, 2016 13:31

Dozens of buses evacuate 3,000 people from Aleppo's last rebel-held district

At least 3,000 people have been evacuated from the last rebel-held district of Aleppo following a Russia- and Turkey-brokered deal between the Syrian government and opposition. An additional 260 people were evacuated from two villages besieged by rebels.

Around 20 buses initially arrived in eastern Aleppo early Monday, Dr. Ahmad Dbis, who heads a team of doctors and volunteers coordinating evacuations, told AFP, adding that another 25 vehicles arrived less than two hours later.

Meanwhile, a United Nations official told Reuters that 50 buses and two ambulances arrived to evacuate civilians, while aid workers put the number at more than 60 buses.

The number of people evacuated from Aleppo early Monday was around 3,000 people, according to AFP. Almost 50 of those were children who were trapped in an orphanage, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said.

“This morning, all 47 children trapped in an orphanage in east Aleppo were evacuated to safety, with some in critical condition from injuries and dehydration," UNICEF regional director Geert Cappelaere said in a statement, as quoted by Reuters.

Cappelaere added that UNICEF and other agencies are assisting to reunify other children who have been evacuated with their families, and are giving them medical care and winter clothes.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that a total of 20,000 people have been evacuated from Aleppo. He stated earlier on Monday that 12,000 had been evacuated, including 4,500 since midnight on Sunday.

Some evacuees are being taken in by relatives and residents, while others are being housed in tents, according to aid workers.

The evacuations are part of a deal brokered by Russia and rebel-backer Turkey, which was agreed on Sunday. It allows for the evacuations of militants and their families from eastern Aleppo, in exchange for the departure of civilians from the northern rebel-held villages of al-Foua and Kafraya.

Ten buses with civilians left the rebel-held Shiite villages of Foua and Kafraya for Aleppo on Monday, according to Syrian state television and a UN official cited by Reuters.

Syrian SANA news agency reported that four buses carrying 261 wounded people and patients from the villages arrived at the al-Ramousa corridor to the south of Aleppo on Monday.

An official from a refugee camp which is accepting those evacuating al-Foua and Kafraya told RT that he expects 1,000 people from the villages to arrive at the camp on Monday.

Several people at the camp spoke to RT about the dire conditions they left behind, citing a lack of food and medical supplies, as well as dirty water and no phone communications. They also spoke of constant shelling by opposition forces.

Many have been forced to leave family members behind, as only injured people, women, and small children are currently being allowed to leave.

The Monday evacuations come just one day after “armed terrorists” attacked and burned five buses en route to al-Foua and Kefraya, Syrian state television reported. 

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council is preparing to vote on a French-drafted resolution on Monday, aimed at immediately deploying UN monitors to eastern Aleppo – a move which Paris says is critical to prevent “mass atrocities” by Syrian forces and militias. France and Russia, which submitted rival draft resolutions, struck a deal on the text after more than three hours of closed-door consultations by the Council on Sunday.