DISPUTE STALLS MOVEMENT: To resume once wounded leave villages; 50,000 remain
ALEPPO: The evacuation of the last opposition-held areas of the Syrian city of Aleppo was suspended on Friday after pro-government militias demanded that wounded people should also be brought out of two villages being besieged by rebel fighters.
The second day of the operation to take fighters and civilians out of Aleppo’s rebel enclave ground to a halt amid recriminations from all sides after a morning that had seen the pace of the operation pick up. Aleppo had been divided between government and rebel areas in the nearly six-year civil war, but a lightning advance by the Syrian army and its allies that began in mid-November deprived the insurgents of most of their territory in a matter of weeks. Rebel sources accused pro-government militias of opening fire on buses carrying evacuees from east Aleppo.
Road blocks went up and a bus convoy was forced to turn back.
Rebels in eastern Aleppo went on high alert after pro-government forces prevented civilians from leaving and deployed weaponry on the road out of the area, a Syrian rebel commander in the city said. A Syrian official said the evacuation was halted because rebels had sought to take out people they had abducted with them, and they had also tried to take weapons hidden in bags. This was denied by Aleppo-based rebel groups. But a media outlet run by the Hezbollah group said protesters had blocked the road from the city, demanding that wounded people from the villages of Foua and Kefraya in nearby Idlib province should also be evacuated. Agencies involved in the evacuation had been told to leave the area without explanation after the operation was aborted, the World Health Organization said. — Agencies