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Aleppo battle: Thousands leave rebel-held city as evacuations resume

world Updated: Dec 19, 2016 14:00 IST

Civilians from rebel-held east Aleppo arrive at the town of al-Rashideen, which is held by insurgents, in Syria on Monday. (Reuters photo)

More than 1,000 people were evacuated from the last rebel-held pocket of Syria’s Aleppo early on Monday after hours of delay, a medical official said.

“About 20 buses carrying people from Aleppo have arrived” at the staging ground west of the city, said Dr Ahmad Dbis, who heads a team of doctors and volunteers coordinating evacuations.

“There are about 1,200 to 1,300 people here,” he added.

More than 30 buses packed with people had waited overnight in freezing temperatures to leave Aleppo under a complex evacuation deal.

Militants burned at least five buses assigned to evacuate wounded and sick people from two villages in northern Syria on Sunday. (AP photo)

Just 350 people were able to leave after Russia and Turkey urged the Syrian regime to allow five buses to pass its final control point, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Read: ‘This is a disaster’: Aleppo evacuations suspended again after deadly attack

The departure of the remaining buses had reportedly been delayed until hundreds of people could be evacuated from two villages in northwestern Syria under siege by the rebels.

The Britain-based observatory said an estimated 500 people were bussed out of Fuaa and Kafraya early on Monday.

“Ten buses carrying about 500 people have left Fuaa and Kafraya and are on their way to government-controlled territory in Aleppo,” said observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

The evacuation deal for Aleppo was brokered by regime ally Russia and rebel backer Turkey, and has been overseen by the International Committee for the Red Cross.

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura estimated that as of Thursday, around 40,000 civilians and perhaps as many as 5,000 opposition fighters remained in Aleppo’s rebel enclave.