Free Press Journal

Lifeline for trapped Syrians


TOPSHOT - Syrian father Ali embraces one of his children, Zeyn, upon their arrival from the Syrian city of Idlib to the Turkish crossing gate of Cilvegozu in Reyhanli in Hatay near the Syrian border on December 17, 2016. Thousands of trapped civilians and rebels waited desperately for evacuations to resume from the last opposition-held areas of Aleppo after the operation was suspended by the Syrian regime. / AFP PHOTO / BULENT KILIC

Pact signed to allow seriously injured people to be avacuated

Beirut : An agreement was reached to allow “humanitarian cases” to leave two besieged government-held Shiite villages in northwestern Syria, a step that would allow the resumption of civilian and rebel evacuations from eastern Aleppo which were suspended a day earlier, Hezbollah’s media arm and a monitoring group said, reports AP.

The opposition’s Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the evacuation of some 4,000 people, including wounded, from the villages of Foua and Kfarya was expected to start on Saturday. It later reported that 29 buses were heading toward the two villages to start the evacuation process, adding that insurgents in the area rejected allowing 4,000 people to leave and saying they will only allow 400 people to be evacuated. It was not immediately clear whether the alleged evacuation limits set by the insurgents in the two villages would undermine evacuation efforts in Aleppo. Hezbollah fighters have joined the Syrian war fighting along with President Bashar Assad’s forces. Opposition activists blamed the Lebanese group for blocking the main road south of Aleppo and blocking evacuations from rebel-held eastern neighbourhoods of the city.

The Aleppo evacuation was suspended yesterday after a report of shooting at a crossing point into the enclave by both sides of the conflict.  Thousands were evacuated before the process was suspended. An amateur video posted online by opposition activists on Friday showed scores of men, women and children running away from a crossing point for fear of being shot at. The video appeared genuine and corresponded to other reporting of the events by The Associated Press. The Syrian government has said that the village evacuations and the one in eastern Aleppo must be done simultaneously, but the rebels say there’s no connection.

Hezbollah’s Military Media said the new deal also includes the rebel-held towns of Madaya and Zabadani near the border with Lebanon where tens of thousands of people are trapped under siege by government forces and the Lebanese group.

A Syrian state TV correspondent, speaking from Aleppo, said today that the main condition for the Aleppo evacuation to resume is for residents of Foua and Kfarya to be allowed to leave.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said thousands of people including women, children, the sick and injured, remain trapped in eastern Aleppo waiting in freezing temperatures for the evacuation to resume.

The ICRC said it is aware a new agreement could be reached soon and has called on all parties on the ground to “do their utmost to end this limbo.”

“We’re ready to resume facilitating the evacuation according to our humanitarian mandate. But we now expect all the parties on the ground to provide us with solid guarantees in order to keep the operation going,” said ICRC’s head of delegation in Syria, Marianne Gasser, who is currently in Aleppo.