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The New Arab

New deal reached to evacuate civilians, rebels from Aleppo

Thousands of civilians are trapped in the last rebel-held areas in Aleppo [AFP]

Date of publication: 14 December, 2016

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A new deal was reached for a ceasefire and the evacuation of civilians and rebel fighters trapped in east Aleppo, a rebel spokesman said Wednesday night.

Syrian rebels on Wednesday night said that a new deal had been reached for a ceasefire and the evacuation of civilians and rebel fighters trapped in the last remaining areas of east Aleppo under rebel control.

A spokesman for the rebel group Ahrar al-Sham told The New Arab that “the negotiations committee had reached a deal with the Russian side that entails a bilateral ceasefire in the entire city of Aleppo to start at midnight on Wednesday.”

“The evacuation of the sick and the wounded will begin on Thursday morning according to the agreement, followed by civilians and fighters,” said the spokesman.

A Russian-Turkish deal to evacuate injured civilians that was reached on Tuesday night was reportedly blocked by Iran because it wanted to add "new conditions" to the agreement.

Iran wanted to link the deal to two government-held villages in northwestern Syria under rebel siege and for the bodies of killed Iranian soldiers to be returned, rebel and local sources said.

"It seems as though Iran wants to block the deal from being implemented because it has been left out and wants to add conditions such as allowing injured people to leave the villages of Foua and Kafraya," local activist Abdel Qadeer Khider told The New Arab.

Khider added that buses had entered rebel-held areas and evacuated 35 wounded people out of a total 150 but that Iranian-backed militias stationed at a checkpoint had turned back the injured.

The militias had demanded that the sieges on two towns in Idlib province - end, or that troops and civilians could be evacuated to regime territories.

On Wednesday night, Abu al-Yusur, a member of al-Shamiya Front rebel group's political office told The New Arab that the new agreement includes the evacuation of all the wounded from the villages of Foua and Kafraya, which are under rebel siege. 

Deadly clashes erupted in Syria's Aleppo on Wednesday, as the deal for the evacuation of rebel areas was on hold, leaving thousands of cold and hungry civilians uncertain of their future.

Along with Russia, Iran backs President Bashar al-Assad's government and has committed advisers and elite Revolutionary Guard forces to the government's war. Turkey backs the rebels fighting to topple Assad.

A source close to the regime, on the other hand, said that the evacuation had been suspended after objections from Syria's government.

The source said Damascus had baulked when the rebels wanted to increase the number of those to be evacuated from 2,000 to 10,000.

Around 60,000 Syrians are trapped in the last remaining districts of Aleppo held by rebels, following an offensive by regime forces which saw the capture of nearly all areas in the city this week.

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