UN approves sending monitors to Aleppo
ANKARAThe United Nations Security Council, with Russia’s backing, voted on Dec. 19 to quickly deploy U.N. observers to Aleppo to monitor evacuations and report on the fate of civilians who remain in the besieged Syrian city, which France says is critical to prevent “mass atrocities.”
Some 20,000 people have been evacuated from the city so far, said Turkish FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.
The resolution adopted Dec. 19 calls for the U.N. and other institutions to monitor evacuations from eastern Aleppo and demands that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urgently consult Syria and other parties on security and arrangements for the immediate deployment of the monitors.
France and Russia, who submitted rival draft resolutions, announced agreement on a text after more than three hours of closed-door consultations on Dec. 18.
The resolution also demands that all parties allow unconditional and immediate access for the U.N. and its partners to deliver humanitarian aid and medical care, and “respect and protect all civilians across Aleppo and throughout Syria.”
The number of those evacuated from eastern Aleppo to the area under control of the opposition has reached 20,000, Çavuşoğlu said on Twitter on Dec. 19, hours after giving the total number of evacuees as 12,000, including 4,500 people evacuated since late Dec. 18.
The process of evacuation was relaunched after a two-day pause.
The minister said Turkey’s efforts on the matter were continuing.
Convoys of buses from eastern Aleppo reached rebel-held areas of countryside to the west of the city in cold winter weather, according to a U.N. official and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group.
At the same time, 10 buses left the Shiite Muslim villages of al-Foua and Kefraya, north of Idlib, for government lines in Aleppo, the sources said, according to Reuters.
The recapture of Aleppo is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s biggest victory so far in the nearly six-year-old war, but the fighting is by no means over with large tracts of the country still under the control of insurgent and Islamist groups.
The evacuation of civilians, including wounded people, from the two villages had been demanded by the Syrian army and its allies before they would allow fighters and civilians trapped in Aleppo to depart. The stand-off halted the Aleppo evacuation over the weekend.
“Complex evacuations from East Aleppo and al-Foua, Kefraya now in full swing. More than 900 buses needed to evacuate all. We must not fail,” tweeted Jan Egeland, who chairs the United Nations aid task force in Syria.
The United Nations said nearly 50 children, some critically injured, were evacuated from eastern Aleppo, where they had been trapped in an orphanage.
Intense cold, long wait still in Aleppo
Ahmad al-Dbis, a medical aid worker heading a team evacuating patients from Aleppo, said 89 buses had left the city.
“Some evacuees told us that a few children died from the long wait and the intense cold while they were waiting to evacuate,” he told Reuters.
For those still waiting to leave rebel-held Aleppo, conditions were grim, according to Aref al-Aref, a nurse and photographer there.
“I’m still in Aleppo. I’m waiting for them to evacuate the children and women first. It’s very cold and there’s hunger. It’s a long wait,” he told Reuters. “People are burning wood and clothes to keep warm in the streets.”
Meanwhile, 7-year-old Bana Alabed, who attracted the world’s attention while tweeting from war-torn Aleppo before calling on the Turkish president and foreign minister to rescue her and her family from the city, was evacuated from the city on Dec. 19, a Turkish NGO announced on social media.
“This morning @AlabedBana was also rescued from #Aleppo with her family. We warmly welcomed them,” the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (İHH) wrote on its Twitter account, sharing an İHH aid worker’s selfie with the girl.
Turkey’s Directorate General of Press and Information announced early Dec. 19 that the number of injured evacuated from Aleppo to Turkish hospitals has risen to 131.
The injured have been transported to hospitals in the southern Turkish province of Hatay.
Five of the injured succumbed to their wounds despite all efforts to save them at hospital, the directorate said in a statement.
Fifty-seven of the injured are being treated in neighboring city hospitals, and 12 have been discharged, it added.
The injured were allowed into Turkey via the Cilvegözü Border Crossing.