Aleppo Evacuation of Rebels, Civilians Finally Begins

from The Wall Street Journal,

One person was killed, four others wounded when civilian convoy comes under fire.

The operation to evacuate thousands of civilians and rebels from the last opposition-held pocket in Aleppo finally got under way Thursday after it was stalled by gunfire on a civilian convoy that killed one person and wounded four others. The first convoy of 20 buses and 13 ambulances carrying civilians and wounded reached opposition-controlled territory in the countryside west of Aleppo late Thursday afternoon, rebels and antigovernment activists said. An aerial photo published online by the opposition Aleppo Media Center showed a long line of green municipal buses, the same buses that have been used to ferry civilians and rebels out of many areas in other parts of the country retaken by the Syrian regime in recent months. A shorter line of Red Crescent ambulances idled along a rubble-rimmed road. Other civilian convoys were expected Thursday. In all, tens of thousands of civilians and hundreds of rebel fighters are to be transferred in the operation. A Turkish Foreign Ministry official said it was premature to discuss how long the evacuations would take.

“Simply put, there is too much conflicting information about how long the cease-fire will hold,” the official said. It wasn’t clear who was behind the shooting that stopped the convoy’s first attempt to leave Aleppo early Thursday, but Turkish officials blamed Iranian-backed Shiite militias for the shooting. Rescue workers and rebels said regime snipers were responsible. Syrian state media didn’t comment. The evacuation of civilians and rebels from the last bastion of opposition control in Aleppo is part of the deal brokered Tuesday by Russia and Turkey that would return the city to full government control for the first time since 2012.

Thousands of civilians have already fled to regime-held areas in recent weeks but faced detentions, torture and summary executions, residents and opposition leaders said. On Tuesday, the United Nations said it had received numerous reports of at least 80 people being executed by government forces.

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