GENEVA/AMMAN: A senior United Nations official warned on Thursday that thousands of people evacuated from rebel-held areas of Aleppo after a crushing government offensive could suffer the same fate in their new place of refuge outside the city.
UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura said a cessation of hostilities across Syria was vital if another battle like the bloody fight for Aleppo was to be avoided.
At least 34,000 people, both civilians and fighters, had been evacuated from east Aleppo in a week-long operation, the latest UN figures show.
“Many of them have gone to Idlib, which could be in theory the next Aleppo,” de Mistura warned in Geneva.
Thousands of refugees from Aleppo were ferried to Idlib amid a snow storm, arousing fears that the rebel-held city in northwestern Syria could be next.
Evacuees from Aleppo had expressed concerns about being taken to Idlib and a senior European diplomat said earlier this month that this would suit Russia, Assad’s main military backer, as it would put “all their rotten eggs in one basket”.
The last group of civilians and rebels holed up in a small enclave was expected to leave in the next 24 hours, with the Syrian army and its allies seizing all of the city, delivering the biggest prize of the nearly six-year war to Assad.
More fighters were evacuated overnight from east Aleppo to opposition-held areas under an agreement between the warring sides, the International Committee of the Red Cross said. — Reuters