Evacuations from the last rebel-held enclave of Aleppo have resumed despite heavy snowfall after being stalled for a day, according to aid officials and pro-government media reports.
Obstacles hindering evacuations from eastern Aleppo and from two villages besieged by opposition fighters outside the city had been overcome on Wednesday, clearing a path for Syria’s army to take full control of the devastated city.
The operation would be completed within hours, according to a news service run by the Lebanese group Hezbollah, an ally of the Syrian government. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) network said in the evening that the last batch of opposition fighters evacuated from the city.
The eventual departure of the thousands from the rebel-controlled zone will hand full control of the city to President Bashar al-Assad, the biggest prize of Syria’s nearly six-year-old civil war.
“Buses are now moving again from east Aleppo. We hope that this continues so that people can be safely evacuated,” a UN official in Syria told Reuters news agency.
People had been waiting in freezing temperatures in east Aleppo since the evacuation hit problems on Tuesday.
Dozens of buses were stuck in Aleppo and the evacuation of the two Shia villages, Foua and Kefraya, also stalled.
Rebels and government forces blamed each other for the hold-up.
With obstructions to the evacuation plan apparently overcome, the Hezbollah news service said 20 buses carrying fighters and their families had moved from eastern Aleppo on Wednesday towards rebel-held countryside.
Syrian TV said four buses and two ambulances arrived in government-controlled parts of Aleppo from Foua and Kefraya.
Government forces had insisted the two villages must be included in the deal to bring people out of east Aleppo.
“These [refugees] people arrive in the rebel-held areas in a very bad shape,” Al Jazeera’s Imtiyaz Tyab, reporting from Gaziantep, said.
“Many of them sat in those buses for 30 hours waiting to be evacuated – not even allowed to use toilets. It is a very grim situation.”
So far, about 25,000 people have been evacuated from Aleppo, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
A UN official said 750 people had so far been evacuated from Foua and Kefraya.
For four years, the city was split between a rebel-held eastern sector and the government-held western districts.
During the summer, the army and allies forces besieged the rebel sector before using intense bombardment and ground assaults to retake it in recent months.
Control of Aleppo would be a major victory for Assad, and his main allies Iran and Russia militarily backing him, against rebels who have defied him in Syria’s most populous city for four years.[Source: Al Jazeera]