Aleppo evacuation halted, rebels fired on convoy
The Syrian government suspended evacuations from eastern Aleppo just hours after they resumed today, saying that rebels had opened fire on a convoy of evacuees at a crossing point with the enclave, state TV reported.
It wasn’t immediately clear how long the suspension would last or whether it would delay the cease-fire deal under which tens of thousands of residents and rebel fighters are being evacuated to opposition-controlled areas in the surrounding countryside, a process likely to take several days.
Earlier on Friday, as the evacuations resumed for a second day, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a major new Syria peace initiative, saying he and his Turkish counterpart are working to set up peace talks between Damascus and the opposition in Kazakhstan.
The evacuations seal the end of the Syrian rebels’ most important stronghold, the eastern part of the city of Aleppo, and mark a watershed moment in the country’s civil war, now in its sixth year.
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.
Lebanon’s Al-Manar Hezbollah TV said the Syrian army stopped the evacuation process because the rebels had violated the cease-fire deal. Hezbollah militiamen are fighting in the Syrian conflict alongside Assad’s forces.
The Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV said buses that were parked at the Ramouseh crossing point had left the area after it was targeted by gunmen.
This morning, dozens of green public buses and ambulances were parked in the southern Aleppo neighborhood of Ramouseh to evacuate more people from eastern Aleppo. Syrian state TV showed a truck with dozens of men, driving through the corridor leading the rebel-held parts of the surrounding provinces.
The TV said that since the early hours of the day, four convoys have left Aleppo. It said some of the evacuees were using their own vehicles to leave.