UN monitors head to Aleppo as thousands of trapped civilians wait for evacuations to resume

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A general view shows Syrian pro-government forces walking in the ancient Umayyad mosque in the old city of Aleppo on December 13, 2016, after they captured the area. (EPA)

ARA News

Alarmed at the “devastating” humanitarian crisis in Aleppo city, where thousands of civilians remain trapped, the Security Council on Monday requested that the United Nations and other relevant institutions carry out “adequate, neutral monitoring and direct observation on evacuations from the eastern districts.”

Through a unanimously adopted resolution, the United Nation’s executive body also demanded that all parties provide these monitors with safe, immediate and unimpeded access to the war-torn city.

Noting that “urgent humanitarian evacuations and assistance are now needed by a large number of Aleppo inhabitants,” the Security Council also insisted that all parties allow the UN’s observers  “through the most direct route, in order to meet basic needs, including the provision of medical care.”

The French-led resolution also calls on all parties to respect and protect all medical and humanitarian personnel, “their means of transport and equipment, as well as hospitals and other medical facilities throughout the country.”

Thousands of civilians were waiting for evacuations to resume on Tuesday. They have been besieged by the Syrian Army and a host of militias since July 27.

“Our task now is to turn these words into meaningful action,” said Stephen O’Brien, the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator. “We stand ready to scale up our presence and efforts across the entire city, in line with the resolution and international humanitarian law.”

Battle Ends After Years of Bloodshed 

Last Tuesday, Syrian rebel factions conceded that the battle for Aleppo was lost after sustaining debilitating losses. They have since agreed to withdraw from their besieged enclave in eastern Aleppo, as part of a local ceasefire agreement.

The opposition’s morale had ebbed as it became clear that no relief force was going to penetrate the army’s siege lines and no international agency was going to ground the Russian Air Force.

“The battle for Aleppo has ended with a victory for the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and Russia,” human rights activist Louay al-Halabi told ARA News at the time.

The oppositions’ loss comes after years of fighting that claimed the lives of tens of thousands and razed much of Syria’s former financial capital.

Islamists Burn Evacuation Buses 

On Sunday, jihadists from Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS) attacked and burned buses that were assigned to evacuate the ill and wounded from Kefraya and al-Foua. The two Shia-majority villages have been under siege since Idlib fell in March 2015.

“Extremists from Jabhat Fateh al-Sham attacked and burned at least five buses that were heading to the besieged villages in Aleppo countryside to evacuate civilians affected by the conflict,” an informed local source told ARA News.

The buses were reportedly torched during clashes between JFS and rebel factions that supported the evacuations.

Rebel factions in Aleppo uniformly condemned the attack, for undermining the agreement and ultimately endangering thousands of trapped civilians.

Jahbat Fateh al-Sham was previously known as Jabhat al-Nusra or Nusra Front. In July the extremist group announced that it had split from al-Qaeda and was rebranding.

“This attack by Fateh al-Sham could have serious consequences on the evacuation of civilians and rebel fighters trapped in eastern Aleppo,” media activist Adnan Halwani told ARA News.

Helwani reasoned that the Syrian regime would “most likely use the Fateh al-Sham’s burning of buses near Kefraya and al-Foua as an excuse to attack evacuees from eastern Aleppo.”

Source: ARA News & Agencies 

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